The Department of Homeland Security on Friday released its strategy to stop the importation of goods into the U.S. that have been made by forced labor in the Xinjiang province of China – where Uyghur Muslims and other minorities are being exploited.
“Our Department is committed to ending the abhorrent practice of forced labor 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,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “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.”
Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in December last year to combat the importation of good from the Xinjiang region, where the U.S. and others have accused the Chinese of genocide and human rights abuses.
China has claimed it is engaged in anti-radicalization and counterterrorism, but activists and governments have pointed instead to significant evidence of mass detention, forced sterilizations, forced labor and bans on religious and cultural practices and torture.
The strategy means that any good made in part of in whole in Xinjiang province is presumed to be made with forced labor and therefore will be made inadmissible to the U.S.
The document gives guidance to importers, including on due diligence and supply chain tracing and management. It also gives the kind of “clear and convincing” evidence importers will need in order to demonstrate that goods made in China were not made with forced labor. The strategy also gives a list of companies presumed to be using forced labor.
Officials stressed in a call with reporters that that list is not static and will look for evidence of other companies using slave or forced labor.
“We are committed to eradicating forced labor, there is a moral imperative to do so. Forced labor is a scourge,” Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force Chair Robert Silvers said on the call. “We are implementing vigorously, we’re implementing efficiently in a risk based way and in a way that is consistent with our mandate to facilitate the flow of lawful trade and cargo.“
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus said that CBP has already been working to prevent goods made with forced labor and that in FY 2022 so far CBP has already prevented the importation of more than $271.8 million in goods, and seen four separate producers taking corrective measures to stop the use of forced labor.
Officials noted that the government has been warning of the risks of doing business in Xinjiang since July 2020. The tough stance on Xinjiang and China’s treatment of the Uyghurs has represented a Trump-era policy that has been kept in place by the Biden administration, and represents an area of bipartisan agreement.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in December was signed by President Biden after securing bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.