The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan bill to ensure imports from China's Xinjiang region are not made with forced labor due to concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed by unanimous voice vote late on December 14, sending it to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved before getting President Joe Biden’s signature.
The legislation passed after lawmakers agreed on compromise wording that eliminated differences between bills introduced in the House and Senate.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The United States accuses the Chinese government of running detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang, where forced labor is used to produce everything from textiles to solar panels.
The United States, some other Western countries, and human rights groups accuse China of committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim groups through mass internment, forced labor, population control, and the elimination of the minorities’ religious beliefs and culture. China denies the allegations, saying it runs “reeducation camps” to fight Islamist extremism.
The Uyghur legislation had been stalled for months due to bickering between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.
Republicans had accused Biden's Democrats of stalling the legislation because it would complicate the president's renewable energy agenda. Much of the world’s solar panels are produced in Xinjiang.
Republicans also accused Democrats of bowing to lobbying from U.S. corporations, such as Apple and Nike, that reportedly profit from forced labor in Xinjiang. Democrats denied both charges.
The White House said it has already taken measures against China over the situation in Xinjiang and would continue to work at home and abroad to prevent the use of force labor.
“The administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy,” the White House said.