US blocks imports from China’s Uighur region for forced labor

US blocks imports from China’s Uighur region for forced labor

September 14, 2020

Washington: The US on Monday (Tuesday AEST) blocked imports from four companies and a manufacturing facility in northwestern China suspected of using forced labour from people detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on ethnic minorities in the region.

Companies that ship clothing and other cotton goods, computer parts and hair products from the Xinjiang region were named in the order issued by US Customs and Border Protection.

The manufacturing facility is a centre where Uighurs and other minorities have been detained and compelled to produce goods for export to the US and elsewhere.

A file photo of a government detention centre in Artux in the Xinjiang region of China.Credit:AP

“Forced labour is an atrocious human rights abuse that is completely against the values that we all share," acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said as he announced the orders halting the imports in a call with reporters.

The US is considering a broader ban on cotton and textiles and tomatoes from Xinjiang but the new orders are a more limited step. Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the Trump administration is still studying the more sweeping measure.

The facility was identified as the Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Centre in Xinjiang, where CBP says it has information that “reasonably indicates” the use of prison labour to make hair products and other goods.

In its orders, CBP named the Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business which make clothing in Xinjiang. It also halted shipments from the Junggar Cotton and Linen Co., and Hefei Bitland Information Technology, which it says uses prison and forced labour to make computer parts.

The Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Centre in China’s Xinjiang region. Human rights watchers say centres like this are labour camps.Credit:AP

CBP did not identify any US companies that do business with the named entities.

Chinese authorities have detained more than a million people — from mostly Muslim ethnic groups that include Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz — in a vast network of detention centres as part of an assimilation campaign.

China has denied widespread and consistent reports of abuse and mistreatment of the Uighurs and other minorities, defending the campaign as an effort to crackdown on extremism and claiming the detention camps are for vocational and Chinese language training.

Nevertheless, the issue has become a source of friction between the US and China amid tensions that have escalated under President Donald Trump.

CBP issued what is known as a “withhold release order,” that blocks shipments from the companies and facility at US ports unless companies involved can prove the goods were produced without the use of forced labour.

The 1930 Tariff Act prohibits imports produced with prison or slave labour to ensure fair competition with US manufacturers. Enforcement has increased since the law was strengthened in 2016 under President Barack Obama.

In August, CBP issued an order to halt to imports from Shanghai-based Hero Vast Group for using prison labour to make clothing that was exported to the United States. It also issued detention orders earlier this year on hair weaves and other beauty products produced in Xinjiang by a company suspected of involvement in human rights abuses.

AP

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