The House backed the 'Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act' by an overwhelming 428-1, but it must also pass the Senate and be signed by President Biden to become law.

The vote comes shortly after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
The vote comes shortly after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Reuters)

The US House of Representatives has passed legislation restricting imports from China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region over its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority.

Members of the House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass the "Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act," which requires corporations to prove "with clear and convincing evidence" that any goods imported from the region were not made using forced labour.

"Right now, Beijing is orchestrating a brutal and accelerating campaign of repression against the Uighur people and other Muslim minorities," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

"In Xinjiang, across China, millions are enduring outrageous human rights abuses: from mass surveillance and disciplinary policing; to mass torture including solitary confinement and forced sterilisations; intimidation of journalists and activists who have dared to expose the truth."

She added: "And, the government of China's exploitation of forced labor reaches across the oceans to our shores and across the world."

The US Senate had previously approved a similar measure and the two will now need reconciling.

READ MORE: US announces 'diplomatic boycott' of Beijing Olympics amid China warning

Diplomatic boycott

The bill will then need to be signed into law by President Joe Biden although it was unclear whether it had White House support.

The vote comes shortly after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics over what it termed China's "genocide" of the Uighur minority and other human rights abuses, a move that drew a harsh rebuke from Beijing.

Earlier this summer, the US government imposed similar restrictions on some Chinese imports, including solar panel materials, over Beijing's treatment of Uighurs.

China called those restrictions "bandit-like."

In a separate 428-0 vote, the House also passed a resolution stating that the International Olympic Committee "failed to adhere to its own human rights commitments" amid doubts about the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault.

READ MORE: Rights group calls on UN to probe China for crimes against humanity

Campaigners say that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Human rights groups and foreign governments say they have found evidence of what they say is mass detentions, forced labour, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilisation. 

After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of "Islamic extremism".

China has denied the accusations concerning its treatment of the Uighur and there was no immediate comment on the House vote from Beijing.

READ MORE: Turkey reiterates concern over China's 'rights violations' against Uighurs

Source: AFP