WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. lawmakers pushed Wednesday for a ban on imports from a vast area of northwest China where the government has detained more than a million ethnic Uighurs after a report found widespread use of forced labor on farms and factories in the region.
The U.S. already bans imports of goods made with forced labor but the report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China found that the crackdown on the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region makes it impossible to ensure goods meet American standards.
Bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday would treat all goods from Xianjiang, including clothing and electronic goods sold by major U.S. and global consumer brands, as presumed to be banned unless they were certified by Customs and Border Protection.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers said in announcing the legislation that the extent of repression by the Chinese government makes it impossible for corporations or independent auditors to ensure that materials made by Uighurs detained in the crackdown.
“We should do everything possible to ensure that our nation and great people are not pleasant participants in the abuse of their human rights,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
It’s not clear when Congress would take up the bill. Legislation that would more broadly address China’s campaign against the Uighurs passed without opposition last year but the House and Senate must still reconcile different versions and send to the president.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang rejected the findings of the report and denied that the problem exists.
“The legitimate labor rights and interests of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are protected according to law, and there is no such thing as forced labor as claimed by someone with ulterior motives,” Geng told reporters.