The Trump administration said it has banned imports from three companies in the Xinjiang region of China over Beijing’s alleged repression of the Uighur Muslim minority group, and it plans to add curbs on six more firms and target cotton, textiles and tomatoes from the area.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Aug. 11 issued a so-called withhold release order — which it uses to combat forced labor in global supply chains — against Hero Vast Group for using “convict labor and forced labor to produce the garments it manufactures,” CBP said in a statement Tuesday. It issued similar orders against Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. on June 17 and Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. on May 1, it said.
The orders against the six other companies — three that operate in the cotton, textile and apparel industries, one in computer parts and two in hair products — will come by the end of this fiscal year, the CBP said.
The measures could have a broad impact on the textile industry, which relies heavily on Chinese cotton. Xinjiang produces more than 80% of China’s cotton and the U.S. imports some 30% of its apparel from China, according to a report published last October by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
As many as 1 million Uighurs have been detained in camps that the Beijing government calls “voluntary education centers.” Those not in the camps live under pervasive surveillance, like facial recognition scans when entering markets for gas stations. Officials have also banned “abnormal beards,” religious names for children and observing the traditional day-time fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The U.S. government is taking action to address the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive policies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China,” the department said. On the plan to issue an order against any cotton, textiles or tomatoes from Xinjiang, it said that the party and its state-owned enterprises “maintain a pervasive scheme within the XUAR that imposes forced labor in the growing, harvesting and production of these products.”
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, denied Tuesday that Beijing had set up re-education camps, calling them vocational and educational training centers lawfully established to prevent terrorism and radicalization. He wasn’t specifically referring to the report on the possible ban from the Trump administration.
“For more than three consecutive years, there hasn’t been violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang,” Zhao said. “And by the end of 2019, all the trainees have finished their courses, and were stably employed. They have been living a tranquil life.”
Xinjiang is China’s top cotton-producing region, accounting for more than 80% of total output. While China doesn’t export the fiber, its domestic textiles industry relies on Xinjiang cotton to supplement supplies for its garment industry. Meanwhile, the U.S. makes up about 30% of imports by China, the world’s biggest buyer of the fiber.
The other companies that face bans this fiscal year are:
- The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which the CBP said “is an economic and paramilitary organization that directly reports to the Chinese Communist Party” that the CCP uses as “a key vehicle to oppress ethnic and religious minorities” in Xinjiang
- Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co. and its subsidiaries, which the CBP said “uses prison labor to produce cotton”
- Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co.
- Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co. and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co.
- Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center, which the CBP said provides prison labor and allegedly “involves situations of arbitrary mass detention of Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minorities and force them to work in labor-intensive industries while receiving political indoctrination.”
- Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park