The US Congress has passed a bill requiring companies to prove that goods imported from the Xinjiang region of China did not come from forced labour. Although China has repeatedly denied it, the USA has continued to accuse the country of genocide of the Muslim Uyghur minority community in Xinjiang. BBC reports that most of the companies that do business in the area such as Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple have condemned the bill. The Senate approved the bill on Thursday with the exception of one member of the Congress. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, as the bill is officially known, will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
Additionally, the US Treasury Department announced a blacklist of investment firms accused of biometric surveillance and tracking of Uyghurs. The list includes Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies Ltd., the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of small drones widely used by lobbyists. China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS) and 11 research institutes are also included in the list of companies the US may not deal with.
The US Commerce Department also announced sanctions against more than 30 Chinese technology companies and research institutes accused of providing support to the Chinese military. American companies are now prohibited from selling goods to the sanctioned companies and entities without a special license. Furthermore, the agency accused China’s AMMS of using biotechnology “to support Chinese military end uses,” including “purported brain-control weapons”. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo claimed that China is using these technologies to control its people and to oppress members of the ethnic and religious minority groups.
A diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing was also announced last week by the White House, citing China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang”. According to reports, the US alongside Australia, Canada and the UK, has decided not to send diplomats to Beijing to protest China’s activities. American athletes will participate but no dignitaries will be in attendance. China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims was labelled as genocide in an annual human rights report by the Biden administration earlier this year.
At a briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded that certain US politicians overstretched the concept of national security so that science, technology, economics, and trade can be politicised based on ideologies. “This runs counter to the principle of market economy and fair competition. It will only threaten and hurt the security of global industrial and supply chains and undermine international trade rules,” he said.
After months of not taking a position on the bill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that President Biden would sign it this week. US and multinational companies that are already experiencing shortages due to supply chain issues had lobbied against it due to the bill’s potential impact on business. “Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, after the bill passed the upper chamber of the US Congress. He continued, “For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans – every one of us, frankly – unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide.”
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This week, lawmakers in both chambers reached an agreement on the final text of the bill after earlier versions were passed by both chambers. Moreover, the measure removes a Republican blockade that prevented Biden’s nominee for ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, from being approved.
A series of recent moves between China and several countries, mainly Western nations, have heightened tensions. According to dozens of reports from journalists and human rights groups, Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang have been imprisoned in camps, forced to have abortions, raped and tortured, in addition to being deprived of the right to practice their faith.