The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation restricting imports from China's Xinjiang region over its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority, as tensions continue to escalate between Washington and Beijing.
Members of the House voted 428-1 to pass the “Uighur Forced Labour Prevention Act”, which requires corporations to prove “with clear and convincing evidence” that any goods imported from the region were not made using forced labour.
“Right now, Beijing is orchestrating a brutal and accelerating campaign of repression against the Uighur people and other Muslim minorities,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers ahead of the vote.
“In Xinjiang, across China, millions are enduring outrageous human rights abuses: from mass surveillance and disciplinary policing; to mass torture including solitary confinement and forced sterilisations; intimidation of journalists and activists who have dared to expose the truth.”
She added: “And, the government of China's exploitation of forced labour reaches across the oceans to our shores and across the world.”
The US Senate has previously approved a similar measure and the two will now need reconciling.
The bill will then need to be signed into law by President Joe Biden and it was unclear whether it had White House support.
The vote comes shortly after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over what it termed China's “genocide” of the Uighur minority and other human rights abuses, a move that drew a harsh rebuke from Beijing.
Earlier this summer, the US government imposed similar restrictions on some Chinese imports, including solar panel materials, over Beijing's treatment of Uighurs.
China called those restrictions “bandit-like”. In a separate 428-0 vote, the House also passed a resolution stating that the International Olympic Committee “failed to adhere to its own human rights commitments” amid doubts about the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault.
Campaigners say that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have found evidence of what they say is mass detentions, forced labour, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilisation.
Washington has described it as genocide.
After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamist extremism.
In a new report published on Wednesday, the Uighur Human Rights Project — a US-based advocacy group — said it had identified more than 300 Uighur and other Muslim intellectuals believed to be detained in Xinjiang since 2017.
China has denied the accusations concerning its treatment of the Uighurs and there was no immediate comment on the House vote from Beijing.