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Treatment of minority Uighurs: 11 companies added to economic blacklist

The U.S. Commerce Department yesterday added 11 Chinese companies implicated in what it called human rights violations in connection with China’s treatment of its Uighurs in Xinjiang in western China to the U.S. economic blacklist.

Specifically, the Uyghurs are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China, as a Turkic-speaking minority ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that the companies were involved in using forced labour by Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. They include numerous textile companies and two firms. According to the government, the companies were conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

A Hong Kong protester shows support for Uighurs and their fight for human rights. Image credit AP

Yet, blacklisted firms cannot buy components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval.

It was the third group of companies and institutions in China added to the U.S. blacklist, after two rounds in which the Trump administration cited 37 entities it said were involved in China’s repression in Xinjiang.

“Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labour and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens,” a statement by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reads.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington refused to comment.

In May the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized U.S. entity list additions arguing the United States “overstretched the concept of national security, abused export control measures, violated the basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

The companies added to the blacklist include KTK Group Co, which produces more than 2,000 products used to build high-speed trains, from electronics to seats; and Tanyuan Technology Co, which assembles high thermal conductive graphite reinforced aluminium composites.

Indonesian hardline Muslim group members take part in an anti-China rally in front of Chinese embassy in Jakarta, on December 27, 2019, to condemn China's government for rounding up an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in internment camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Image credit AFP

Another company is Changji Esquel Textile Co, which Esquel Group launched in 2009. Esquel Group produces clothing for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss. In April, Esquel denied it used forced labour in Xinjiang.

Also, on the blacklist there is Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co., as, on May 1, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it was halting imports of the company’s hair products, citing evidence of forced labour.

On July 1, CBP seized in Newark a shipment of almost 13 tons of hair products worth over $800,000 with human hair that originated in Xinjiang.

Commerce previously added 20 Chinese public security bureaus and companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology in connection with China’s treatment of Muslim minorities.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, has said he would introduce legislation that would penalize U.S. companies which use forced labour in their supply chains.

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