US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act which prohibits American businesses from importing goods from Xinjiang unless they can be proven not to have been made by forced labour.
China is battling allegations of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the last few years from the US, the UK and the European Union.
The allegations include incarceration of thousands of Uyghurs in mass detention camps and forced labour in manufacturing units of the resource-rich Xinjiang, where mass migration of the dominant Han-Chinese is also taking place. Researchers have accused Chinese officials of forced abortions, and mass indoctrination and other such crimes.
Beijing says its security crackdown in Xinjiang was aimed at the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is affiliated to the Al-Qaida faction operating in Xinjiang. The labour camps have been called regular job training.
The US-China ties are going through a tense phase as Biden has already announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics which is to be held in February next year.
Reacting to the latest development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, in a statement, that the American “act maliciously denigrates the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang in disregard of facts and truth. It seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs”.
He asked the US government to immediately correct its mistakes and stop using Xinjiang-related issues to spread lies, interfere in China’s internal affairs and contain the country’s development. “China will make further responses depending on the development of the situation,” he said.
Noting that Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights at all, but about fighting violence, terrorism and separatism, he said conspiring and scheming on Xinjiang-related issues cannot stop China’s development.
“What the US has done runs counter to market rules and business ethics. It will only destabilise the global industrial and supply chains and disrupt the international trade order,” he said.
State-run Global Times said the US legislation hurts the interests of US companies as China produces 22 per cent of the world’s cotton of which 84 per cent comes from Xinjiang and many American firms are bound to face shortage.
On Thursday, American microchip maker Intel Corp. apologised over a letter urging suppliers to not source products or labour from China’s Xinjiang region.
The letter said Intel Corp. had been “required to ensure” its supply chain did not use labour or source goods from Xinjiang, following restrictions imposed by “multiple governments”.
The tech giant later regretted sending the letter to suppliers after facing tremendous backlash from Beijing and a call for total boycott.
In a statement posted in Chinese on its official handles on media platforms WeChat and Weibo accounts, Intel clarified that its commitment to avoid supply chains from Xinjiang was an expression of compliance with US law, rather than a statement of its position on the issue.
“We apologise for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China,” the BBC quoted the firm’s letter as saying.
The Global Times said Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola were among companies reportedly lobbying the US Congress to weaken the forced labour act.