| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

The White House stated on Friday that President Joe Biden’s administration is not advocating against a U.S. bill that would restrict some Chinese imports due to concerns over forced labor among Uyghurs, which Republicans have blamed Democrats of blocking.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would prohibit imports from China’s Xinjiang province, is expected to be examined by the House of Representatives as early as next week, according to the bill’s author, Congressman Jim McGovern, who spoke to media on Thursday.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki replied to a Washington Post story that the Biden administration was encouraging senators to stall forward the bill while the administration explores a more targeted approach, rather than a blanket ban on goods from the region, and backing from other countries.

According to the Post, Biden administration officials verified that in an October discussion between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a bill co-sponsor, Sherman made it apparent that the administration supported such an approach.

According to the report, she advised Merkley that gaining the support of allies was crucial and more successful than unilateral action.

Sherman was asked at a Brookings Institution event with the chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service on Friday whether the administration supported a bill banning goods from Xinjiang on the assumption they were tainted by forced labor.

“Secretary Blinken, very early on, and I have as well, have called what has occurred in Xinjiang genocide,” she replied, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We are quite concerned, and remain concerned, about the horrific human rights abuses that have taken place. And the particular amendment that you’re discussing, the administration does not oppose this amendment,” she said.

“We need to stand in solidarity with the Uyghurs, with religious minorities all over the world, to make sure that they can live in security and dignity.”

Merkley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Washington Post report and Sherman’s remarks.

Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of stalling the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda, which requires Chinese cooperation. The Democrats deny this.

If the Uyghur measure becomes law, the sponsors have said it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslims, were made with forced labor.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.

  • Reuters