On June 21, 2022, measures imposed by the United States seeking to regulate imports from the Xinjiang region of China, where millions of Uyghurs and members of other minorities persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are estimated to be victims of slave labor in the regime’s controversial re-education camps, finally went into effect.
Under new rules set out in the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), U.S. companies will not be able to import products from China’s Xinjiang region unless they can reliably demonstrate that they are not produced under conditions of forced or slave labor.
Several imports from the resource-rich region, including cotton and tomatoes, had already been banned during the administration of Donald Trump, a great trailblazer in the fight against labor exploitation and human rights violations in Xinjiang.
When the measures were implemented, many U.S. officials urged allied countries and trading partners to join the boycott against the exploitation perpetrated by the Chinese communist regime.
A month after the new regulations were announced to begin in the U.S., its major allies appear committed to following Washington’s lead in banning forced labor products from China’s Xinjiang region.
Thea Lee, deputy assistant secretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor, mentioned during an interview with Reuters the commitment made to counterparts, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, to advise on how they will implement their own restrictions on products made using forced labor.
“My sense is that this is moving. It’s moving in Canada. It’s moving in the European Union. It’s moving really around the world, which is why my message to companies has been, ‘You need to start taking this seriously,'” said Lee, whose agency is part of a government task force leading the implementation of the UFLPA.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in June that Washington would meet with its allies to discuss ways to tackle forced labor together.
U.S. leads fight against Uyghur exploitation in Xinjiang
The United States, especially since the Trump administration, played an essential role in globally disseminating international allegations and investigations showing the terrible persecution and subjection to forced labor in Xinjiang.
A large number of officials and legislators carried out various actions to make the issue visible and take concrete steps to bring about a halt to the atrocities committed.
Perhaps the most crucial point of the Trump era in terms of the fight against Uighur exploitation and persecution was when on January 19, 2021, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, through an official White House statement, denounced that at least since March 2017, the People’s Republic of China, under the leadership and control of the CCP, has committed genocide against the Uighurs.
According to the former Trump official, crimes such as the arbitrary imprisonment of more than one million Uighur civilians, forced sterilization, torture of large numbers of detainees, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement, continue to be in effect under Communist China and should be considered “crimes against humanity and genocide.”
The communiqué indicates that the United States urges the “The PRC immediately to release all arbitrarily detained persons and abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor;” and also urges the Chinese authorities to “cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families.”
International community responds to U.S. accusations against regime
Several countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, and Great Britain, have followed the Trump administration’s lead and accused China’s communist regime of committing genocide against the Uighur population, defined by international convention as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
MEPs also expressed concern about the situation of Uighurs in China and, on several occasions, adopted targeted sanctions such as freezing the assets of Chinese officials responsible for persecution.
On June 25, 2022, French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann posted a video on his social media that read:
“Behind SHEIN’s ten-euro dresses and two-euro T-shirts is a massive system of exploitation. Twelve hours of work a day, only one day off a month, no employment contract or work insurance, and terrible safety conditions at work.”
At the same time, the European Parliament announced in mid-June of this year the adoption of two landmark human rights resolutions that could directly affect the sectors of the textile industry that benefit from the labor exploitation of prisoners of conscience.
The first resolution calls for a series of new trade instruments to ban the importation of all goods produced with forced labor into the European Union (EU) market.
The second resolution focuses on human rights in the semi-autonomous region of Xinjiang and research files warning of the persecution and exploitation of the Uighurs. As such, it again calls for a trade instrument banning the import of goods, mainly textiles, produced with forced labor in the region.
If both resolutions are correctly implemented, it will be possible to demand that products manufactured and shipped using forced labor leave the European market.
It should be noted that the European Union is China’s second-largest export market after the United States, so it is expected that such restrictive measures if implemented as announced, could have a real impact on labor exploitation.
Other minorities are also exploited in Chinese labor camps
As is well known, the Uighurs are not the only minority persecuted and exploited by the Chinese regime. It is a widespread practice for those persecuted for religious or ideological beliefs to be sent to the infamous “re-education camps,” where they are tortured and forced to work for 16-hour days or more.
Such is the case of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong practitioners, who have been persecuted for 23 years by the CCP, in many cases, locked up in this type of prison.
Based on actual events, the documentary Letter from Masanjia describes perfectly how the communist regime exploits prisoners of conscience and tells the story of a Falun Dafa practitioner who wrote letters about his situation while in a labor camp and hid them in the products he manufactured.
A person in the United States found one of these letters in a product imported from China that he bought on the Internet, and from that moment on he began an odyssey to report the situation and to meet the person who wrote the letter.
Xinjiang import ban affects the global supply chain
Much of the world’s production system depends to a greater or lesser extent on products made in the Xinjiang region. So the recent law implemented in the United States and the European bills has managed to worry both the CCP, which sees its productive system based on exploitation threatened and the large Western retail importers and producers that depend on raw materials imported from Xinjiang.
Textile industry suppliers, international retail chains, solar panel and renewable energy manufacturers in the United States, and Chinese producers in the Xinjiang area are considering confiscating their shipments to the United States and Europe.
The Western authorities will now have to determine firstly whether the legislation will be enforced, a necessary condition to bring about an actual halt to labor exploitation in Xinjiang, and secondly, how to replace these imports, which in some cases are under the monopoly of the regime, as is the case of cotton used for the textile industry and rare earths for the technology industry.