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BILL TO BAN GOODS PRODUCED BY UYGHUR FORCED LABOUR INTRODUCED TO AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT

8 December 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today tabled a bill in the Australian Parliament to enact a ban on the importation into Australia of goods produced by Uyghur forced labour.  

“Today I introduced the Customs Amendment (Banning Goods Produced By Uyghur Forced Labour) Bill 2020 which will ban the importation of goods from Xinjiang Province in the People’s Republic of China, as well as goods from other parts of China that are produced using forced labour”, Senator Patrick said.  

“The next step will be for the Bill to be considered by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, and I will seek to refer it to the Committee this Thursday.” 

“The Chinese Communist regime’s persecution of the Uyghur people is undeniable. More than one million people have been rounded up and put in internment camps across Xinjiang and subjected to gross human rights abuses including torture, coercion, the denial of the most basic liberties and forced labour.”

“It would be a grave human rights failure if Australia, under our Free Trade Agreement with China, were to turn a blind eye to profiteering from what amounts to the massive use of forced labour.”

The United States Government and the House of Representatives of the United States Congress have both acted in relation to the exploitation of detained Uyghur people. The US Government has ordered the banning of imports of cotton, clothing and computer components from four companies and a manufacturing facility in north western China because of their reliance on forced labour.  The US House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Bill to ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) recently launched a data project mapping Xinjiang’s detention system with 380 sites of suspected re-education camps, detention centres and prisons that have been built or expanded since 2017. In a previous research report published in March 2020 ASPI identified 83 Chinese and foreign companies, including many well-known international brands, benefiting directly or indirectly from the exploitation of Uyghur detainees transferred to locations outside Xinjiang.

ASPI estimated that at least 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to Chinese factories in a range of supply chains including electronics, textiles, and automotives. The report identified at least 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces using Uyghur labour transferred from Xinjiang.

Most recently, the Canadian Parliament’s international human rights committee released a report that described the Chinese Government’s imprisonment of Uyghurs is “the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust” and presented clear evidence of gross human rights abuses including forced labour, both in Xinjiang and other regions of China.

Senator Patrick said: “If Australia is to be true to the democratic values we hold, we need to leave the Chinese Government in no doubt that its conduct is unconscionable and unacceptable.”

“The legislation I have introduced will achieve that objective through the imposition of an absolute prohibition on the importation of all goods produced or manufactured in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, and all goods produced or manufactured in China through the use of forced labour as defined by Australia’s Criminal Code.” 

“The importation of any goods found to have been produced in Xinjiang, or elsewhere in China by forced labour, will then by subject to the same penalties that apply to the importation of other goods designated as prohibited imports by regulations made under the Customs Act 1901.

This is a very necessary measure that supports Australia’s longstanding commitment to internationally recognised human rights.”  

“It would be a grave failure on the part of the Australian Parliament if we do not call out and act to limit the massive abuses of human rights by the Chinese Communist regime.”  

The text of Senator Patrick’s Bill can be found at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1284