Repression of Uighurs: US Senate bans importation of products made in Xinjiang

This is a first in the defense of the rights of the Uighurs, this Chinese Muslim minority. The US Senate unanimously approved a law on Thursday (December 16th) banning the importation into the United States of a wide range of products made in China’s Xinjiang province. The objective is to fight against the forced labor of the Uighurs.

The adoption of the text is a victory for the supporters of an aggressive policy aimed at combating the violation of human rights. The vote came despite a lobbying campaign from companies arguing that the legislation would disrupt global supply chains, already under pressure from the pandemic. The text is now on President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.

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It provides for the banning of products made in whole or in part in Xinjiang, unless companies are able to prove to customs officials that the products were not produced through the use of forced labor.

“Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains”, said Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican senator and one of the authors of the bill. He stressed the need to take action to stop making Americans “Unwitting accomplices of the atrocities, of the genocide committed by the Chinese Communist Party”.

Beijing is accused by Western countries of massively locking the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking community in western China, in large labor camps.

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About 30 Chinese companies blacklisted

“We agree with Congress that steps can and should be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights violations and to combat forced labor in Xinjiang.”White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday when an agreement on the text was announced. « L’administration [Biden] will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure that global supply chains are free from forced labor ”, she added in a press release.

The Senate move comes as the Commerce Department and the Treasury announced new sanctions against Chinese biotech and high-tech companies accused of using their technology to serve the government to amplify Uighur surveillance.

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On Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce launched the offensive by placing around 30 entities on a blacklist restricting sensitive exports. Then the Treasury banned US nationals from doing business with eight high-tech companies, including the world’s number one drone company DJI, which had already been on the Commerce Department’s blacklist for two years.

Human rights groups have reported that China is exercising unprecedented surveillance over this population, using DNA and artificial intelligence research.

Washington’s sights on research institutes

“Scientific research in biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives. Unfortunately, the People’s Republic of China chooses to use these technologies to control its people and suppress members of ethnic and religious minority groups ”, lamented the US Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, to justify the new sanctions.

Research institutes targeted by the latest US actions include centers focused on blood transfusions, bioengineering and toxicology. That “Shows how private companies in China’s defense and surveillance technology sectors are actively cooperating with the government in its efforts to suppress members of minority ethnic and religious groups”said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson. “The Treasury remains committed to ensuring that the US financial system and US investors do not support these activities”, he added.

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A total of thirty-seven entities were added to the Ministry of Commerce’s list of companies accused of being involved in activities “Contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States”. The list includes Chinese companies but also firms from Georgia, Malaysia and Turkey, according to the document due to be published in the official gazette on Friday.

Concretely, Washington has decided to restrict sensitive exports to the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences and eleven of its research institutes due to its biotechnology work, including “So-called brain control weapons”, he explains.

The World with AFP

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Repression of Uighurs: US Senate bans importation of products made in Xinjiang