In a major pushback against China's crimes against humanity, specifically towards the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), the U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bipartisan legislation prohibiting hte import of goods from the region.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon as a sanction on China's failure to address its human rights abuses against the Uyghurs who live in the region.
According to Radio Free Asia, the new bipartisan bill will create a "rebuttable presumption" that all products made in the XUAR were created through forced labor and thus are banned under the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930.
The new legislation also places the responsibility of proving that goods coming from the XUAR on importers, who must certify that any of the products they are bringing to the U.S. from Xinjiang were in fact not made through forced labor or any other Chinese government labor schemes for Uyghurs.
The new bill banning all products coming forth Chinese provinces where Uyghurs are treated as slaves was introduced in late January and was passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday, a week after the U.S. State Department made a declaration on China's repression of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities constitutes genocide and crimes against humanity.
"The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more," Sen. Rubio said in a statement. "We will not turn a blind eye to the Chinese Communist Party's ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses."
It is now up to the House of Representatives to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act before it heads to the White House for President Joe Biden's signature and approval, which would then make it law. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives back in March 2020 and passed six months later but failed to appear in the floor of the Senate.
Senators are now pressuring the House of Representatives to pass the bill banning all products coming from the Chinese province where Uyghurs are treated as slaves. According to the Christian Post, Sen. Rubio is confident he will see the law passed through the House, as it previously passed similar legislation in 2020.
Sen. Rubio previously authored the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which was the first of its kind to be passed in the entire world. The legislation draws sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) through its chair, Nury Turkel, expressed their approval of the passing of the new legislation that bans all products coming from Xinjiang unless it's proven that it was not a product of forced labor. Turkel called it a "another milestone" and a "major step forward" in combating China's persistent human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, RFA reported.