What is the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA)?
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), passed on December 21, 2021, is the culmination of a years-long investigation by the United States into alleged human rights abuses perpetrated on Uyghur, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The UFLPA, which went into effect on June 21, 2022, is unique in its enforcement protocol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made clear that all imports from Xinjiang will at least be detained – in some cases seized – unless the importer can provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the goods are free of forced labor. Rebutting the assumption of forced labor requires meticulous supply chain documentation demonstrating that the goods in question are either a) unconnected with Xinjiang, or b) connected with Xinjiang but nevertheless free of forced labor.
Why is the UFLPA important?
Since 2017, some 1.8 million people have been subject to political indoctrination, forced labor, physical violence, forcible drug intake, sexual abuse, and torture at the hands of the Chinese national government. Chinese authorities have been relocating and detaining Uyghurs en masse in purportedly abolished “re-education through labor” (RTL) facilities. Those who remain outside these camps suffer discriminatory surveillance technologies and coercion through “arbitrary adiministrative and criminal provisions,” many of which aim to curb Uyghur birth rates. In January 2021, China’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang had officially been declared a genocide by the U.S. Secretary of State.
The UFLPA has received an immense amount of funding as it represents a political determination on behalf of the United States to acknowledge and deter the use of Uyghur forced labor.
What makes the UFLPA different?
When it comes to the UFLPA, you won’t find pages and pages of legal jargon. The act is a mere 54 words long, but has the potential to disrupt a vast amount of global trade. The affected imports are not limited to shipments directly from China; any product made either partially in or with materials from Xinjiang is banned from entering the U.S. The value of finished goods with a link to the Xinjiang region has been estimated at a massive $64 billion.
The UFLPA is unique because it’s all encompassing. Any product, no matter the kind, is subject to the law. In the past, these kinds of forced labor trade laws were generally focused around a category of product, such as cotton. The UFLPA on the other hand is likely to disrupt a number of industries, particularly textiles, tomatoes, and polysilicon used in solar panels.
How can I ensure I’m in compliance with the UFLPA?
This law has shifted the burden of proof to the importer. Any product that has contact with the Xinjiang region is presumed to be manufactured through forced labor and therefore banned. If an importer believes their product from Xinjiang was not made with forced labor, they will need to provide thorough, third-party vetted documentation that proves otherwise.
Difficult as it has been for U.S. authorities to pinpoint sources of forced labor in Xinjiang, CBP has released a list of sanctioned entities known to have committed human rights violations. These names are a helpful step toward enabling compliance, but importers will have to go further if they are to provide the documentation necessary to rebut the assumption of forced labor in their supply chains. If a customs investigation is able to find that any one person involved with the shipment had knowledge of the use of forced labor, they would be charged with the criminal statute of forced labor.
Importers should look to mitigate the risk of Uyghur forced labor within their supply chains by conducting thorough audits. Sayari Graph utilizes open source records and graph technology to map out connections and establish links between illicit actors, their infrastructure, and related business structures and transactions. This technology can be used to look for indicators of forced labor in Chinese public records, scan for known high-risk companies, and screen beneficial owners to ensure a supply chain is unexposed.