Demonstrators wear masks bearing the flag of East Turkestan during a pro-Uyghur protest. President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, banning imports from China's Xinjiang region unless importers can prove the products were not made with forced labor. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 23 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a measure banning imports from China's Xinjiang region over human rights against the Muslim Uyghur population.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act bars imports from the region unless the importer can prove they are not made with forced labor. It also imposes sanctions on foreign individuals who make use of forced labor, the White House said.
Other versions of the bill had previously passed in the House and Senate but members of both chambers were able to reach an agreement to settle variations between the two versions earlier this week and send it to the president's desk ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
"As the Chinese government tries to whitewash their genocide and claim a propaganda victory with the upcoming Olympics, this legislation sends a powerful, bipartisan message that the United States will not turn a blind eye," co-author of the bill Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla,, the other co-sponsor of the bill, issued a statement describing it as 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."
"It will fundamentally change our relationship with Beijing," he said. "This law should also ensure that Americans no longer unknowingly buy goods made by slaves in China."
The Biden administration earlier this month announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics after declaring China's treatment of the Uyghur population as genocide in March.
Under the previous Trump administration imports of cotton products from Xinjiang were banned due to concerns over forced labor.