The United States on Monday blocked the import of certain products from certain manufacturing facilities in northeast China over their suspected use of forced labour by Uighurs, an ethnic minority group detained in camps, AP reported.
The US Customs and Border Protection issued orders stopping imports from companies producing clothing, cotton and computer parts in China’s Xinjiang area. The US customs department also blocked the import of hair products from a facility over suspicions that Uighurs and other minority groups are forced to work.
The department named Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Corporation and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Corporation, which manufacture clothing in Xinjiang. It also stopped shipments from Junggar Cotton and Linen Corporation and Hefei Bitland Information Technology corporation. These two allegedly use forced labor to produce computer parts.
Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli also dismissed Beijing’s claims that the facilities were “vocational” centres. “It is a concentration camp, a place where religious and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse and forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom,” he said. “This is modern day slavery.”
According to the United Nations, at least 10 lakh ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim communities have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang province, to forcibly stop them from following Islamic traditions and integrate them into the majority Han population. However, China claims it is providing vocational training and discouraging religious extremism.
The customs department said last week that it has planned to impose broader bans on cotton and its textiles and tomatoes, according to Reuters. Cuccinelli said the proposal was being studied.
“We are gathering more evidence there but also just doing a more thorough legal analysis to make sure we can withstand any legal assault once we proceed with it,” he said. Unidentified officials said that concerns relating to broader bans were raised by officials of the American administration, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The order to ban imports was made under the 1930 Tariff Act, which prevents imports produced with prison or slave labour to ensure fair competition with US manufacturers and keep tainted products out of the supply chain.
“We can use our economic power to tell businesses that we will not stand idly by and allow foreign companies to prey upon vulnerable workers while harming American businesses that respect human rights and the rule of law,” Acting customs department Commissioner Mark Morgan said.
The US has criticised Beijing for its alleged human rights violations against the Uighur Muslims. In June, US President Donald Trump had signed into law a bill that would allow the the country to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of the Uighur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang region.
The Chinese foreign ministry lashed out at the US and said in a statement that Beijing will “resolutely hit back and the US will bear the burden of all subsequent consequences”.