The bill, if signed into law by President Biden, will ban imports from China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region unless businesses prove they were produced without forced labour.

China says US actions violate rules of free trade and threaten the security of global supply chains.
China says US actions violate rules of free trade and threaten the security of global supply chains. (Reuters)

US senators have given final Congressional approval to a bill barring imports from China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labour, overcoming initial hesitation from the White House and what supporters said was opposition from corporations.

Thursday's measure is the latest in a series of intensifying US penalties over China's alleged abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in the western region, especially the region's predominantly Muslim Uighurs. 

The Biden administration also announced new sanctions on Thursday targeting several Chinese biotech and surveillance companies, a leading drone manufacturer, and government entities.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that Biden supported the measure, after months of the White House declining to take a public stand on an earlier version of the legislation.

The spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Washington said the US actions against Chinese entities over Xinjiang-related issues "are totally groundless."

US actions violate rules of free trade and threaten the security of global supply chains, the spokesperson said. 

Several Western countries and campaigners claim that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

The Chinese government rejects complaints of abuses and says the camps are for job training to support economic development.

Beijing also says the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement. 

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No overt opposition to bill

The US cites raw cotton, gloves, tomato products, silicon and viscose, fishing gear, and a range of components in solar energy as among goods alleged to have been produced with the help of forced labour.

"Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law," Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who introduced the earlier version of the legislation with Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, said in a statement.

"For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans — every one of us, frankly — unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide that's being committed by the Chinese Communist Party," Rubio said.

As in the House earlier this week, the compromise version passed the Senate with overwhelming approval from Democrats and Republicans. 

The swift passage came after what supporters said was offstage opposition from corporations with manufacturing links to China, although there was little to no overt opposition.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies