The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act goes into effect today, almost a year after the bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The Act, which first passed the Senate in July, serves as a mechanism for the U.S. to prevent goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang, China from entering the U.S. According to a summary, the bill “imposes importation limits on goods produced using forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China and imposes sanctions related to such forced labor.”
China has been accused of detaining more than a million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the country’s far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where they are allegedly working in conditions of forced labor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Fashion and retail industry leaders applauded the Act in a joint statement issued today by the American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association and The United States Fashion Industry Association.
“Our members have a zero tolerance for forced labor and will continue to make every effort to mitigate, root out, eliminate and prevent forced labor in their supply chains, the groups said. “The UFLPA is a key component of a broad global strategy and our shared goal to end forced labor. We look forward to an increased partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. government’s Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force as industry works to amplify the U.S. government’s efforts to eliminate forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
Major athletic and companies such as Nike and Adidas — which manufacture in China — have come under fire in recent years from customers and human right groups expressing concern over their potential use of forced labor. In December, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a complaint in the Netherlands, alleging that Patagonia, Nike and two other brands may have benefited from forced labor among the Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province. ECCHR called on the Dutch Public Prosecutor to further investigate these alleged human rights violations from these companies that have headquarters in the Netherlands.
Nike has stated that it does not source products from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike has stated that its Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards prohibit forced or indentured labor. Nike said it has found no evidence of Uyghur or other ethnic minority from XUAR employment in its supply chain.
At the same time, some brands that have taken a stance against using labor sourced for the Xinjiang region have also faced criticism in China. In March 2021, Nike, Adidas and H&M came under fire in China for statements that were issued months prior against the alleged forced labor in the region. Some Chinese brand ambassadors ended their affiliations with these respective brands and social media users on Weibo accused the brands of smearing China.