US advises firms to avoid Chinese suppliers linked to rights abuses in Xinjiang

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The United States has issued an advisory to companies telling them to shun supply chains linked to forced labour, mass detention and other abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Issued on Wednesday, the advisory intends to add more US pressure on China at a time of heightened tensions over China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang and Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

The advisory-issued jointly by the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security-cautioned that firms with these kinds of supply chain links should be aware they could be assisting in the development of surveillance tools for the Chinese government in the XUAR.

The advisory said companies doing business in Xinjiang or with entities using Xinjiang labour face “reputational, economic, and legal risks” from human rights abuses, including forced labour, mass detention and forced sterilization.

“CEOs should read this notice closely and be aware of the reputational, economic and legal risks of supporting such assaults on human dignity,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday.

US Customs and Border Protection officers earlier on Wednesday detained a shipment originating in Xinjiang of hair products and accessories suspected of being forced labour products made with human hair, the agency said in a statement.

The products, part of a shipment of almost 13 tons of hair products worth over US$800,000, indicated potential human rights abuses of forced child labour and imprisonment, the statement said.

“The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in US supply chains,” Brenda Smith, a senior Customs and Border Protection official, said in the statement.

The US Commerce Department last month added seven companies and two institutions to an economic blacklist for being “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labour and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs” and others.

China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Chen Xu, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that Beijing categorically rejects what he called “groundless accusations against China on the Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues” made by some countries due to political motives. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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