U.S. Congress passes bill to block imports from China’s Xinjiang region

Dec 17 ,2021. 2 hours ago – 08:24 KYODO NEWS

Photo taken on July 30, 2021, shows the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congress on Thursday passed a bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region amid concerns over forced labor of the Uyghur ethnic minority there, while the government blacklisted dozens of Chinese entities for their alleged role in human rights violations and support they give to the military.

The latest development is likely to worsen tensions between Washington and Beijing over human rights issues, with Washington particularly concerned over what it calls the “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghurs in China’s far-western Xinjiang region.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed the Senate on Thursday by unanimous consent after being approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week. It needs to be signed into law by President Joe Biden, which the White House said he will.

It requires U.S. customs authorities to presume goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and that they should be banned from import, except for items from importers that can provide clear evidence to the contrary.

“This Senate will not stay silent in the face of genocide against the Uyghur people,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted. “America will not stand for it, and the global community shouldn’t either.”

On the same day, China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and 11 of its research institutes were cited as entities to be newly added to the Commerce Department’s trade blacklist. Eight technology firms, including world-leading drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co., were placed on the Treasury Department’s investment blacklist.

China is choosing to use biotechnology to “pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a press release.

“We cannot allow U.S. commodities, technologies, and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted toward uses contrary to U.S. national security,” she added.

According to the department, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and the research institutes “use biotechnology processes to support Chinese military end uses and end users, to include purported brain-control weaponry.”

A total of 25 Chinese entities, including the academy and its affiliates, were added to the Commerce Department’s so-called Entity List for aiding “Beijing’s efforts to develop and deploy biotechnology and other technologies for military applications and human rights abuses,” it said.

Inclusion on the Entity List means U.S. firms are prohibited from selling goods to the designated companies without government approval.

Meanwhile, the eight companies targeted by the Treasury Department were accused of supporting “the biometric surveillance and tracking of ethnic and religious minorities in China,” particularly the Uyghurs.

SZ DJI has provided drones to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau that are used to surveil the Uyghurs, the department said.

Under the action, U.S. persons will be prohibited from purchasing or selling certain publicly traded securities connected with these entities, it said.