US gets tough on corporates using forced Uyghur labour in China

Representative photo

The US-China rivalry transcends to almost every aspect they confront. Currently, both are trying to contain each other’s influence across the globe. The only thing that favours US in this, along with antagonising China, is Beijing’s authoritarian regime. Under CCP’s control China is perusing some of the most heinous human rights violation across the mainland which includes the persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

And now, it seems that western countries are materialising some laws that addresses and sanctions Uyghur genocide.

Another Uyghur genocide sanction Bill introduced in US Senate

A bill was recently introduced in US Senate acknowledging the violation of human rights of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China. If passed it would compel businesses to disclose links to forced Uyghur labour to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and provide funds for those who have escaped the Xinjiang region to counter Chinese propaganda.

Apart from the SEC filing, the US Senate Bill strives to expand the existing travel restrictions on Chinese officials linked to Uyghur genocide. It will also provide additional funding for “broadcast initiatives to counter Chinese propaganda.”

The bill named ‘The Uyghur Genocide Accountability and Sanctions Act’ would also provide funding for ongoing Uyghur cultural and linguistic preservation projects.

In a press release, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who introduced this bill along with a Democrat Senator, Jeff Merkley from Organ said, “By building upon current legislation, this bicameral bill aims to enhance the enforcement of secondary sanctions on businesses that offer assistance to the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing atrocities against the Uyghurs.”

As per Rubio and Merkley, if the Bill is passed, it will plug holes in 2021 Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and also impose penalties on those making profits out of Uyghur forces labour.

France passes an Act on the lines of 2021 US Act

Interestingly, introduction of this bill coincides with a French Bill that has been passed in France’s Senate on Thursday, that urges the European Union to copy the 2021 U.S. ban on the import of goods linked to forced Uyghur labour, which according to French lawmakers has rerouted many such goods into the European single market.

French senators unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday, urging the adoption of Europe’s own version of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to prohibit imports associated with slave labor. The legislation was introduced by Senator Mélanie Vogel, who represents Europe Ecology – The Greens for the constituency of French citizens living abroad, with the intention of exerting pressure on EU officials.

Within Europe’s single market, the power to unilaterally alter trade policies is not vested in the 27 individual EU member states. Instead, laws governing imports and exports are harmonized across the European Union.

“This resolution is basically asking for the introduction of a very efficient mechanism at the E.U. level that would ban goods made using forced labor,” Vogel said. “Basically, it’s asking the French government to push for this position at the E.U. level.”

Senator Vogel noted that an existing EU proposal concerning the issue solely seeks to prohibit imports of goods after they have been substantiated as connected to slave labor through a rigorous legal process. However, the French Senate favored a ban based on the approach established in the United States, which assumes that goods originating from Xinjiang involve slave labor.

Consequently, the burden of proof would be placed on companies seeking to export goods into the EU market, requiring them to demonstrate that they have not utilized forced labor. This shift removes the onus from human rights activists to prove violations of human rights and places it squarely on the exporting companies to affirm that forced labor has not been employed.

Challenges for EU

Such a bill is needed in Europe more than ever before because after the 2021 US Act was passed, most of the Xinjiang made commodities have been rerouted into Europe. While talking to RFA, Dilnur Reyhan, head of the European Uyghur Institute and a Uyghur studies lecturer at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris said, “The goods made with Uyghur forced labor that couldn’t enter the U.S. are making their way into the European market. That’s why it’s extremely critical that such legislation needs to pass in Europe as well.”

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