The import of Chinese goods manufactured by forced labour in Xinjiang province will now be blocked after the US-sponsored Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act came into effect on June 21.
The Act targets goods “originating from the northern autonomous region of Xinjiang” – a major manufacturing hub of China.
The Americans brought in the law saying Xinjiang has scores of “mass internment camps subjecting thousands of detainees from Muslim minorities to forced labour as well as other abuses”. The Chinese government has dismissed the charges and warned the West against implementing the Act saying it could disrupt business ties between the two countries.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in June second week presented to US Congress the “Strategy to Prevent the Importation of Goods Mined, Produced, or Manufactured with Forced Labor in the People’s Republic of China”.
What does the new Act decree? “The UFLPA establishes a rebuttable presumption that goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in Xinjiang or by an entity on the UFLPA Entity List are prohibited from U.S. importation under 19 U.S.C. SS 1307.”
Unless an importer of goods from China can convince the US authorities with clear evidence that the goods were not produced by forced labour, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will “apply the rebuttable presumption under the UFLPA to merchandise imported on or after June 21, 2022”.
The CBP will exercise its authority under the customs laws to “detain, exclude, or seize and forfeit shipments that are within the scope of the UFLPA”. The CBP will continue to work closely with the industry to “facilitate legitimate trade and ensure that lawful goods may enter the United States as efficiently as possible”, including hosting a series of briefings in the coming days to help the industry understand and comply with their obligations under the law.
Some of the sectors most exposed to the risk of forced labour are: Cotton-made garments and apparel, polysilicon, including the kind used in solar panels, tomatoes and tomato products, hair products, particularly wigs and hair extensions, touch screens and other electronic components and rail transportation equipment.
“Our Department is committed to ending the abhorrent practice of forced labour around the globe, including in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where the People’s Republic of China continues to systemically oppress and exploit Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority communities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We must combat these inhumane and exploitative practices while ensuring that legitimate goods can enter at our ports and reach American businesses and consumers as quickly as possible.”
A DHS note said: “This strategy has been prepared in consultation with the US Department of Commerce and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, pursuant to Section 2(c) of Public Law No. 117-78, an Act to ensure that goods made with forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes, otherwise known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.”
The American security premise is to see that American supply chains are not tainted by forced labour products.
According to the DHS note: “The assessment addresses the risk of importing goods made with forced labour in the PRC, threats that may lead to the importation of forced labour-made goods from the PRC, and procedures to reduce such threats. Complex supply chains that touch Xinjiang are highly susceptible to contamination by goods made using forced labour. Threats that amplify the risk of such goods in U.S. supply chains include lack of supply chain visibility, commingling inputs made with forced labour into otherwise legitimate production processes, import prohibition evasion, and forced labour practices that target vulnerable populations within the PRC.”
The note describes the Chinese government’s methodology to use forced labour as a manufacturing tactic. “Forced labour in internment camps and other labour schemes remain a central PRC tactic for the repression of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tibetans, and members of other persecuted groups. The possibility of internment in these labour programs functions as an explicit or implicit threat to compel members of persecuted minorities to work. In some cases, workers are transferred directly from detention to factories in and outside of Xinjiang. Even when workers in these programs are not transferred directly from internment camps, their work is the product of forced labour.”
In recent years, the US Government has made businesses and importers aware of forced labour practices in the Xinjiang region. In July 2020, DHS, alongside the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, and the Office of the US Trade Representative, issued a “Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory” to highlight the heightened risks for businesses with supply chain and investment links to Xinjiang.
That business advisory was updated and further strengthened in July 2021. Additionally, in January 2021, CBP released a region-wide “Withhold Release Order” on certain products made by forced labour in Xinjiang. The release of the UFLPA Strategy is the latest in a series of actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to address human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.
The Human Rights Watch said that since 2017, “Chinese authorities have committed crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the northwest Xinjiang region, detaining as many as one million people and subjecting detainees and others to forced labour inside and outside Xinjiang”. The new law “creates a presumption that goods made in whole or in part in Xinjiang, or produced by entities in China linked to forced labour, are not eligible to be imported into the United States”.
China has warned the US administration against enforcing the new law. The government said the new law would “severely” damage ties if it begins to reject Chinese imports.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told the media: “If the act is implemented, it will severely disrupt normal cooperation between China and the US, and global industrial and production chains. If the US insists on doing so, China will take robust measures to uphold its own rights and interests as well as its dignity.” (ANI)