China’s Commerce ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” on Friday to a US ban on imports from Xinjiang region.
The ministry described the action by the United States as “economic bullying”, state news agency Xinhua reported.
US President Joe Biden signed a bill into law on Thursday that bans imports from China’s western Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labour.
The US President approved the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, , the White House said, which is part of the US pushback against Beijing’s treatment of China’s Muslim minority, which Washington has describes as genocide.
The bill passed Congress this month after lawmakers reached a compromise between House and Senate versions.
The legislation assumes all goods from Xinjiang, where Beijing has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, are made with forced labour and it bars imports unless it can be proven otherwise.
Some goods – such as cotton, tomatoes, and polysilicon used in solar-panel manufacturing – are designated “high priority” for enforcement action.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.
Nury Turkel, the Uyghur-American vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Reuters this month the bill’s effectiveness would depend on the Biden administration’s reaction to companies seeking waivers.
One of the bill’s co-authors, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, said it was necessary to “send a resounding and unequivocal message against genocide and slave labour”.
In its final days in January, the previous US administration under Donald Trump announced a ban on all Xinjiang cotton and tomato products.
- Reuters with additional editing by George Russell