U.S. officials shine spotlight on China’s repression of Uygur Muslims

U.S. officials shine spotlight on China’s repression of Uygur Muslims

The United States is pushing to “strengthen international coordination” against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, with a specific focus on banning products made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

The U.S. and some human rights groups accuse Beijing of genocide against ethnic Uyghurs in the predominantly Muslim region, and Mr. Blinken sought to highlight the issue as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials began implementing a law prohibiting imports made by forced labor into the United States.

President Biden signed the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” into law in December after it passed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and Mr. Blinken stressed on Tuesday that the administration is now getting the word out to private companies that they will be held accountable if they are found importing products made in whole or in part with forced labor.

“Together with our interagency partners, we will continue to engage companies to remind them of U.S. legal obligations which prohibit importing goods to the United States that are made with forced labor,” the secretary of state said in a statement.

“We are rallying our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to speak out against atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in calling on the [Chinese government] to immediately end atrocities and human rights abuses, including forced labor,” he said.

China’s ruling Communist Party denies carrying out human rights abuses and has sharply rejected assertions by the United States and a range of other nations that genocide is occurring against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.

Mr. Biden’s embrace and promotion of the new forced labor imports law “underscor[ed] our commitment to combating forced labor everywhere, including in Xinjiang, where genocide and crimes against humanity are ongoing,” the secretary of state said.

Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo added in a statement of her own that Tuesday’s implementation of the new law should send “a clear message to China and the rest of the global community that the U.S. will take decisive actions against entities that participate in the abhorrent use of forced labor.”