The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law goes into effect today, nearly a year after President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.
The law, which was first passed by the Senate in July, serves as a mechanism for the United States to prevent the entry into the United States of goods made by forced labor in Xinjiang, China. According to a summary, the bill “imposes import limits on goods produced by forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and imposes penalties related to such forced labor.
China has been accused of detaining more than a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the country’s far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where they are believed to work under forced labor conditions, according to the US Department of Labor.
Fashion and retail industry leaders applauded the law in a joint statement released today by the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Fashion Industry Association.
“Our members have zero tolerance for forced labor and will continue to do their utmost to mitigate, eradicate, eliminate and prevent forced labor in their supply chains,” the groups said. “UFLPA is a key part of a broader global strategy and our common goal to end forced labor. We look forward to increased partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Government Forced Labor Task Force, as industry works to amplify U.S. government efforts to eliminate forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Major sports companies and firms such as Nike and Adidas – which manufacture in China – have come under fire in recent years from customers and human rights groups expressing concern over their potential use of forced labour. In December, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a lawsuit in the Netherlands, alleging that Patagonia, Nike and two other brands may have benefited from forced labor among the Uyghur population of China’s Xinjiang province. ECCHR has asked the Dutch Attorney General to further investigate these allegations of human rights abuses by these Dutch-based companies.
Nike said it does not source products from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike said its Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards prohibit forced or contract labor. Nike said it found no evidence of the use of Uyghurs or other XUAR ethnic minorities in its supply chain.
At the same time, some brands that have taken a stand against the use of labor from the Xinjiang region have also faced criticism in China. In March 2021, Nike, Adidas and H&M came under fire in China for statements issued months earlier against alleged forced labor in the region. Some Chinese brand ambassadors ended their affiliations with those respective brands and social media users on Weibo accused the brands of smearing China.