Dec 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs historic bill punishing China for Uyghur genocide


President Biden prepares to sign the Paycheck Protection Program Extension Act of 2021 into law in March. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden signed a bill Thursday banning imports from China's Xinjiang region and punishing the Chinese government for its genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, per a White House release.

Why it matters: Human rights activists say the bill will impose the first substantive costs the Chinese government has ever faced for its atrocities in Xinjiang. This could set a precedent for other countries to follow suit, writes Axios' Zachary Basu.

Details: The measure imposes sanctions on those responsible for forced labor in the region and bars imports unless the U.S. determines with "clear and convincing evidence" that they were not made with forced labor.

Flashback: The bill easily passed both chambers of Congress earlier this month in a rare bipartisan consensus. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the lone opponent.

What they're saying: The release thanked elected officials of both parties, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — as well as Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The other side: The Chinese government on Friday said the law violates international law and “maliciously denigrates the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang in disregard of facts and truth."

  • "It is preposterous for the U.S., a country with a deplorable track record of human rights issues, to accuse and smear China. The U.S. has serious problems of human trafficking and forced labor."

Of note: President Biden signed a separate bill on Thursday funding treatments for and research into neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with China's response to the law and details of Biden's signing of the ALS legislation.

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