Will the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Stop Modern Slavery in Xinjiang?

U.S. tensions with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) grow as ongoing criticism over Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province continues to escalate. Recently, the U.S. Senate passed critical legislation aimed at banning the import of all products that originate from China’s Xinjiang region.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) is widely considered in Washington to call out Beijing for what they consider to be continuing acts of genocide aimed at destroying the culture and identity of both Uyghurs and other Muslim groups within the region.

What is the UFLPA?

The UFLPA is a bill that would impose several types of restrictions that pertain to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. It particularly emphasises the prohibition of certain imports from Xinjiang whilst imposing sanctions for violating the human rights of Uyghur Muslims.

The Act would not only prohibit goods manufactured or produced in Xinjiang, but also bans entry unless U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determines the goods do not originate from the use of convict labour, forced labour, or indentured labour.

The UFLPA would also make the White House responsible for periodic reports to Congress, with a list of foreign entities and individuals involved in illegal behaviour, and impose sanctions.

In addition, the UFPLA bill mentions that: “It is the policy of the United States to actively work to prevent, publicly denounce, and end human trafficking as a horrible assault on human dignity and to restore the lives of those affected by human trafficking, a modern from of slavery.”

The Next Stage of Passing it into Law

Although it was passed with unanimous bipartisan consent, the bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can approve and sign it into law. Lawmakers in Washington say they are determined to see it through since it was first introduced by Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Jeff Merkley. Both urged the House to act quickly given the current situation in Xinjiang.

“We will not turn a blind eye to the [Chinese Communist Party’s] ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses,” said Senator Rubio in a statement.

“No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor,” added Senator Merkley. The congressmen indicated they are committed to seeing this forced labour prevention legislation get approved sooner rather than later given the escalation in tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Modern Day Slavery is becoming a Global Priority

Modern day slavery has always been a serious concern but has received greater emphasis during 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact those working in low quality and hostile working conditions. The World Labour Organization (WLO) estimates that more than 40 million people worldwide are considered victims of modern-day slavery.

Governments throughout the world, including the UK, Australia, Canada, and those within the European Union are enacting legislative reforms to improve the manner in which slavery is rooted out and to ensure companies are held to account.

Meanwhile, countries like the United Kingdom are also attempting to respond to the Uyghur situation in their own way. Recently, the Labour Party urged the country’s Health Secretary to forgo adopting a £5 billion contract for NHS protective equipment that consisted of gowns and masks from companies identified as having played a role in promoting the use of forced labour in the Xinjiang region. This followed previous concerns of similar uses of forced labour taking place in Malaysia that dealt with the production of medical gloves from Xinjiang; a deal consisting of a £6 billion contract. However, it is anticipated that it will be cancelled amid ongoing concerns.

Promoting Labour Standards & Human Rights

The result from all of this is that governments and corporations are finding themselves publicly acknowledging the issue and pulling away from their ties with Xinjiang to promote better international labour standards and human rights.

Are any of your third-parties based in Xinjang? Our Modern Slavery Risk Assessment Programme can help you to identify, mitigate and manage modern slavery risk in your supply chain in China and beyond. You can also learn more by watching our panel discussion on Practical Steps to Identify, Mitigate and Remediate Modern Slavery Risk.

To learn more about how our solutions can help you with your modern slavery assessment, please get in contact with us today.

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