Campaigners accuse China of genocide over its treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs © Andrew McCoy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Campaigners accuse China of genocide over its treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs © Andrew McCoy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Firms must prove slavery-free supply chains under new US law

17 December 2021

The US Congress has passed a bill that bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless firms can prove their supply chains contain no forced labour.

The bill, known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and passed by the Senate, assumes a ban on products unless firms have carried out “due diligence, effective supply chain tracing, and supply chain management measures to ensure that such importers do not import any goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labour from the People’s Republic of China, especially from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region”.

The bill follows similar efforts by the European Commission, which recently announced it would ban imports from the area. 

The bill looks to “to lead the international community in ending forced labour practices wherever such practices occur through all means available,” and to “strengthen the prohibition against the importation of goods made with forced labour”.

It has been sent to president Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Amnesty International claimed Chinese authorities had created a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale” in Xinjiang. Concerns have been expressed over alleged abuse of the Muslim Uyghur population in the area, including mass surveillance, detention, and forced labour.  

The Trump administration said the treatment of the Uyghur population equated to “genocide”. 

However, companies including Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola previously lobbied against the bill, citing concerns over how it would affect business, according to the New York Times.

Apple and Nike were accused by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute of having forced labour from the region in their supply chains. 

The White House said: “The president welcomes the agreement by Congress on the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We agree with Congress that action can and must be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang. 

“That is why the administration has already taken concrete measures including imposing visa restrictions, Global Magnitsky Act and other financial sanctions, export controls, import restrictions, and the release of a business advisory. The president also rallied the G7 to commit to ensure all global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour – including from Xinjiang. 

“The administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labour, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy.”

A spokesperson for China’s US Embassy told CNBC it denied allegations of forced labour. 

They said: “Some US politicians have concocted disinformation of so-called forced labour in order to restrict and oppress relevant parties and enterprises in China as well as contain China’s development.

“All ethnic groups in Xinjiang choose their occupations according to their own will and sign “labor contracts” of their own volition in accordance with law on the basis of equality.”

Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have been approached for comment. 

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