US bill would punish non-US companies found working with entities supporting Uyghur human rights violations in China

China Uyghur Uighur Xinjiang

Two lawmakers in the United States re-introduced a bill to Congress on Tuesday that would expand US sanctions to include foreign companies that do business with entities that are contributing to human rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs in China’s Far West, reported Radio Free Asia. 

The proposed law, the Sanctioning Supporters of Slave Labor Act, would authorize US government agencies to impose secondary sanctions on companies or individuals or individuals that make transactions with sanctioned entities, such as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, or XPCC which are the biggest state-owned enterprise in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. 

Radio Free Asia is a United States government-funded private non-profit news service that broadcasts radio programs and publishes online news.

According to the office of US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and one of the bill’s two sponsors, if the bill passes, any non-US company that enters transactions with such entities would be banned from working with American companies. Moreover, their assets in US bank accounts would be frozen. 

The bill had initially been introduced in 2022, during the last congressional session, but wasn’t passed, so the lawmakers have re-introduced it.

Rubio’s office said that companies would be forced to choose between keeping sanctioned suppliers in Xinjiang or continuing to sell their products in the United States.

“Further actions must be taken to hold accountable those individuals and entities benefiting from the forced labour of Uyghurs,” Rubio said in a statement.

“Not only should China’s genocidal regime answer for the crimes they are committing but also the companies that profit from these atrocities,” he added. 

US Representative Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

The bill is an expansion of a previous law, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act that was passed in 2020 and imposes sanctions against entities determined to be supporting the Chinese Communist Party’s violations of Uyghur and other ethnic minority rights, according to Radio Free Asia. 

In recent years, China has been internationally criticised for its severe rights abuses of the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, including forced labour. 

However, the US government and several Western parliaments, including the German Bundestag, declared that the abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far western part of China resulted in genocide or crimes against humanity, reported Radio Free Asia. 

Whereas, some lawmakers have accused American companies of helping and abetting the Chinese Communist Party in their human rights violations. 

Some lawmakers have accused American companies of aiding and abetting the Chinese Communist Party in their human rights violations.

According to Radio Free Asia, a spokesperson for Rubio, requesting anonymity, said, “Prior experience with the effort to get UFLPA passed shows that corporate America is willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses and even genocide if it means maximizing their profit margins.”

“This will only increase pressure on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to stop its senseless attacks on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and the other peoples living in Xinjiang,” the spokesperson added.

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