BEIJING | China on Wednesday castigated the adoption in the United States of a text banning imports from its region of Xinjiang to fight against “forced labor” of Uyghurs, Beijing deploring a “fabrication from scratch”.
Long hit by bloody attacks, this immense semi-desert region of northwest China has been the subject for several years of a firm security takeover in the name of the fight against terrorism.
Uyghurs, mostly Muslim and speaking a language related to Turkish, are the main ethnic group in Xinjiang.
According to human rights organizations, more than a million people have been interned there in “camps”. China claims that these are “vocational training centers”, intended to help the population find employment and thus remove them from religious extremism.
In a rare moment of union between Democrats and Republicans, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Xinjiang on Tuesday.
The text aims to ban most imports from this region, in order to block the entry into the United States of products resulting from the “forced labor” of the Uyghurs.
Beijing reacted sharply, accusing Washington of “defaming” China on the issue of human rights.
“So-called forced labor (in Xinjiang) is a fabrication of some individuals and organizations in the West,” Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
“China expresses its strong indignation and its firm opposition,” blasted Mr. Wenbin, assuring that his country had officially protested to the United States.
The proposed law provides for a ban on all imports from Xinjiang. The only waivers could be granted by US Customs if “clear and compelling evidence” shows that a product was not made through forced labor.
The text still needs to be approved by the Senate and promulgated by its Republican president to enter into force.
Last week, Swedish ready-to-wear giant H&M announced that it had ceased all relations with a Chinese yarn producer, again due to “forced labor”.