By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - US President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law Thursday.
The law bans imports from the Uyghur-majority Xinjiang autonomous region in northwestern China and imposes sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for forced labor in the region.
In a brief statement, the US president thanked House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic congressman Jim McGovern and Republican congressman Chris Smith, as well as Senators Jeff Merkley and Marco Rubio "for their leadership."
The bill was introduced by Rubio and Merkley last year and it cleared the House and Senate in recent weeks. It ensures that goods made with the slave labor of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China do not enter the US.
"This is the most important and impactful action taken thus far by the United States to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their use of slave labor," Rubio said after the signing.
Stating that the law will "fundamentally change" Washington's relationship with Beijing, Rubio said the law "should also ensure that Americans no longer unknowingly buy goods made by slaves in China."
In Xinjiang, ethnic Uyghur Muslims have been subjected to years of abuse because of their identity and culture.
According to UN data, at least 1 million Uyghurs are kept against their will in places Beijing calls “vocational training centers” but which critics call places for indoctrination, abuse and torture.
Several countries have accused China of committing genocide against Uyghurs.
Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as “lies and (a) political virus.”