China criticizes Xinjiang bill, says stirs ethnic divisions

China on Wednesday lashed out at the passage of a bill by the US House of Representatives that threatens sanctions over the alleged use of forced labor in Xinjiang.

China on Wednesday lashed out at the passage of a bill by the US House of Representatives that threatens sanctions over the alleged use of forced labor in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, calling the accusation a lie.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the bill “maliciously slandered the human rights situation in Xinjiang” and sought to curb development and progress in the region while stirring up ethnic divisions and interfering in China’s internal affairs.

“The so-called problem of forced labor is totally a lie fabricated by some organizations and personnel in the United States and the West,” Wang told reporters.

The House voted 406-3 to declare that any goods produced in Xinjiang are presumptively made with the forced labor of Uygurs and other ethnic minorities, and therefore banned from being imported to the US. If enacted into law, it could force companies to avoid a region that produces 80 percent of the cotton in China, one of the world’s top producers of the fiber, as well as tomatoes and manufactured goods.

The “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” still needs to be passed by the Senate before becoming law.

“China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition, and had already made stern representations to the US,” said Wang. He accused the US of using the claims of forced labor to “restrict and oppress Xinjiang businesses.”

China will take all necessary measures to uphold the rights of Chinese companies and safeguard its sovereignty and development interests, Wang said.

A non-governmental organization, the Worker Rights Consortium, says about one in five cotton garments sold in the US contain content from Xinjiang.

Last week China published a white paper titled “Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang,” staunchly defending its policy in the region, where it says training programs, work schemes and better education have improved people’s lives. It has stressed building training centers is necessary to stamp out extremism.

Sonia Bressler, a French expert on China, said that the Chinese government has always adhered to a people-centered governance philosophy and improved the well-being of local people by facilitating their employment.

The white paper shows the real situation and achievements in employment promotion in Xinjiang through facts and data, effectively refuting some Western media’s accusations against China on Xinjiang-related issues, Bressler said.

Donald Rushambwa, a researcher at China-Africa Economic and Culture Exchange Research Center, said the white paper shows that the labor rights and interests of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have been fully protected.

Through various employment-oriented training, local workers have greatly improved their skills and enhanced their competitiveness, Rushambwa added.

Oleksiy Koval, a member of the Board of the Ukrainian Association of Sinologists, said that the white paper shows the public the various endeavors taken by the Chinese government to promote employment and develop Xinjiang.

The white paper provides specific data on changes in employment in Xinjiang over the past five years, including the number of new jobs, changes in the income of the population and poverty alleviation in rural areas, Koval said.

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