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EU Reaches Initial Agreement on the Issue of Forced Labor, Reports Radio Free Asia

The European Parliament and the European Union Council have reached a provisional agreement that establishes new rules prohibiting products made with forced labor.

However, an expert informed Radio Free Asia that enforcing these rules in Xinjiang, where thousands of Uyghurs are subjected to forced labor, will be challenging as the burden of proof is on the EU rather than on China or Chinese companies.

Since 2017, an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs have been imprisoned in “re-education camps” in China, where they are forced to work in factories producing various goods. Despite China’s claim that these are vocational training facilities that have been shut down, survivors and witnesses report severe abuse and human rights violations in these camps.

International pressure has led Western companies like BASF and Volkswagen to reconsider their operations in Xinjiang.

The proposed bill, subject to approval by the European Parliament, empowers national authorities or the EU Commission to investigate and take action against suspected forced labor in companies’ supply chains.

EU co-rapporteur Maria Manuel Leitao Marques, seen in a 2017 photo, says forced labor has been a reality for too long. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

Under the EU agreement, goods produced through forced labor will be donated, recycled, or destroyed to prevent them from entering the EU market.

Co-rapporteur Samira Rafaela from the Netherlands emphasized the importance of working with global partners to combat forced labor and prevent such products from entering the market.

Co-rapporteur Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques of Portugal highlighted the prevalence of forced labor worldwide and the need for stronger legislation to address this issue.

Despite the positive steps, doubts remain about the effectiveness of the proposed law compared to the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, as it does not fully shift the burden of proof onto the perpetrators.

Adrian Zenz, a China expert, expressed concerns about the EU’s ability to enforce the ban on products made with Uyghur forced labor and suggested that economic interests may hinder stronger actions against forced labor.

Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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