U.S. Senate passes bill banning Xinjiang goods

The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Wednesday banning products from China's Xinjiang region.

It's the latest effort by Washington to punish Beijing, for what U.S. officials say is an ongoing genocide there against Uyghurs and other Muslim groups.

China denies mistreating Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.

Under the current rule, the import of goods into the U.S. can be banned if there is reasonable evidence of forced labor.

The bill assumes goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour until proven otherwise, and certified by U.S. authorities.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was passed in the Senate by unanimous, bipartisan content.

It must now pass the House of Representatives before being sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

It was not immediately clear when that might take place.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio - who co-authored the bill - called on the House to act quickly.

In a statement he wrote, "We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP's ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses."

The bill's other co-author, Democrat Jeff Merkley, also said, "No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labour."

Democratic and Republican aides expect the measure would get strong support from the House, after it approved a similar measure nearly unanimously last year.

Rights groups and Western officials have long maintained that Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labour by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since 2016.

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