CHINA WATCHDHS Unveils Strategy to Combat Uyghur Forced Labor in China

Published 20 June 2022

DHS has unveiled a strategy aiming to combat the Chinese government’s use of forced labor by members of the Uyghur ethnic minority in the western province of Xinjiang.

As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF), chaired by DHS, released the Strategy to Prevent the Importation of Goods Mined, Produced, Or Manufactured With Forced Labor in the People’s Republic of China . The FLETF is an interagency task force that includes DHS, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Departments of Labor, State, Justice, Treasury, and Commerce. The UFLPA passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed by President Biden in December of 2021. The legislation set the relevant dates for the Department to release the Strategy and begin implementation of the law. The strategy is being released after robust engagement with importers, Congress, and other key stakeholders. 

“Our Department is committed to ending the abhorrent practice of forced labor around the globe, including in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where the People’s Republic of China continues to systemically oppress and exploit Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority communities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We must combat these inhumane and exploitative practices while ensuring that legitimate goods can enter at our ports and reach American businesses and consumers as quickly as possible.” 

“The importation of goods made using forced labor is an affront to human rights and our national values,” said DHS Under Secretary for Policy and FLETF Chair Robert Silvers. “Forced labor places legitimate manufacturers, domestically and abroad, at a competitive disadvantage. I am honored to serve as the Chair of the FLETF, a body that leads our government’s response to this scourge. The Strategy that we have delivered to Congress will produce meaningful progress in combating the use of forced labor while we continue to facilitate lawful trade.” 

The UFLPA prohibits goods from being imported into the United States that are either produced in China’s Xinjiang region or by certain entities identified in the UFLPA Strategy, unless the importer can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the goods were not produced with forced labor.  

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will apply the rebuttable presumption under the UFLPA to merchandise imported on or after June 21, 2022. CBP will exercise its authority under the customs laws to detain, exclude, or seize and forfeit shipments that are within the scope of the UFLPA. CBP will continue to work closely with industry to facilitate legitimate trade and ensure that lawful goods may enter the United States as efficiently as possible, including hosting a series of briefings in the coming days to help the industry understand and comply with their obligations under the law. 

DHS said it urges importers to follow the operational guidance issued on June 13 by CBP and comply with the UFLPA Strategy to ensure their goods are fully compliant and able to be imported into the United States. In addition to the guidance, DHS and CBP have released additional resources to ensure compliance, including frequently asked questions and contact information for inquiries. CBP will also continue to provide assistance and support to businesses and importers with questions on the implementation of the UFLPA.  

DHS and CBP have sought public input to implement the UFLPA and conducted robust engagement with importers, stakeholders, and other interested parties, to include public hearings, briefings, webinars, and one-on-one meetings. DHS said it “will continue to closely coordinate with interested parties to continue efforts to stop the flow of goods produced by forced labor from entering our country while also minimizing any impact to operations.”

The U.S. government has for some time made businesses and importers aware of forced labor practices in the Xinjiang region. In July 2020, DHS, alongside the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, issued a Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory to highlight the heightened risks for businesses with supply chain and investment links to Xinjiang. That business advisory was updated and further strengthened in July 2021. Additionally, in January 2021, CBP released a region-wide Withhold Release Order on certain products made by forced labor in Xinjiang. release of the UFLPA Strategy is the latest in a series of actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to address human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.