Law still needs to be endorsed by Congress before it can be signed by President Joe Biden.
China says the US’s real intent is to “damage the prosperity and stability in Xinjiang”.
China said the US has ”sinister intentions” after the Senate passed legislation on Wednesday to ban the import of products from Xinjiang, Washington’s latest effort to punish Beijing for what it calls genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim groups.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would create a “rebuttable presumption” assuming goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour and therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless otherwise certified by US authorities, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Passed by unanimous consent, the bipartisan measure would shift the burden of proof to importers. The current rule bans goods if there is reasonable evidence of forced labour.
The bill must also pass the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law. It is not clear yet when that might take place.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio introduced the legislation with Democrat Jeff Merkley. Aides from both parties said they expect the measure, which goes beyond existing bans on Xinjiang tomatoes, cotton and some solar products, will get strong support in the House.
The move spurred a rebuttal from Beijing, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying on Thursday the US has “sinister intentions” and should stop its political manipulation.
“The US side hyped up the so-called Xinjiang forced labour and the true intent is to damage the prosperity and stability in Xinjiang,” said Zhao. ”It deprives the Xinjiang people of their basic rights to survival, employment and development, and engages in forced unemployment and forced poverty. This fully exposed the sinister intentions of the United States in trying to use Xinjiang to control China.”
He suggested American lawmakers should drop the bill and “pay more attention to the US’s own problems… stop wasting time and energy to smear and attack China”.
Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some Western lawmakers say Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labour by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities since 2016.
Reporting by Reuters.
This report was updated with new information on Thursday July 15.