Though US President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ban imports of any products connected to forced-labour practices in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, it came to light that some administration figures and business interests are fighting against the strict implementation of this law.
With this, the Biden administration faces a crucial test of its will to not stay complicit in taking strict action against the human rights violations of the Uyghur comminity in China’s Xinjiang region.
The question remains whether Joe Biden will be able to confront this genocide in China. This is a lingering question as only this week, a new US law meant to cripple China’s ability to profit from the forced labour of Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities went into effect.
US Congress passed and Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act last December. It bans imports of any products connected to forced-labour practices in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, part of what the Biden administration has determined to be an ongoing genocide.
However, Josh Rogin, writing for Washington Post said that several officials, congressional staffers and experts have told him that some administration figures and business interests are fighting against the strict implementation of the law.
“The implementation will be contested, just as everything, Xinjiang-related was contested last year,” said Michael Sobolik, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council adding, “The mechanics are different, but the battle remains the same: climate interests pitted against human rights concerns.”
Another point of contention is climate change. Officials of the Biden administration, including State Department climate envoy John F. Kerry, have argued internally since last year that human rights concerns should not stand in the way of working with China on climate change.
It is interesting to note that Beijing has itself tried to deliberately link these two issues that have no correlation. Beijing demands the United States stop the criticism of the country’s human rights violations before it will walk the talk on climate change.
However, there is one thing which is different this year- the high inflation in US and the economic crisis. This crisis threatens Democratic control of Congress and his own reelection.
This seems to be causing the White House to ease off its promise to combat Uyghur forced labor to the full extent of its ability.
One of the examples of this is the issuance of White House emergency declaration where it granted a 24-month tariff waiver for solar panels containing components from Xinjiang.
This move undermines an ongoing Commerce Department investigation. The new law requires that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detain any shipment that comes from Xinjiang or has components connected to Xinjiang, which are now presumed to be tainted with forced labor unless the importers can prove otherwise.
It is concerning whether the law that US put in place to put pressure on China for putting a stop on the human rights violations in Xinjiang will be properly implemented. Some US corporations are already complaining that the requirement is too onerous, because proving that the products are unconnected to abuses is near impossible.
If the White House provides enough wiggle room for China’s forced-labour industry to continue with business as usual, the entire effort will be rendered useless — and the prospects for the Uyghurs and other victims will further darken, as per the US-based media.