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US companies must stop buying goods made by forced Uyghur laborers, senator says

Senator Bob Menendez (POMED/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democratic member has called on the Commerce Department to stop U.S. companies from buying goods made by forced Uyghur laborers.

In a March 10 letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said leading U.S. companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, and The Gap “have sourced or continue to source” from China’s Turkic Muslim-dominated region of Xinjiang.

China holds about 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang that Beijing claims are for “reeducation” and fighting terrorism.

Menendez said in his letter that China has forced some of them to work in nearby factories either during their detention or after, under the threat of being sent back.

“In failing to uphold their responsibilities to vet their supply chains, these companies may be complicit in the mass repression of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups,” his letter said.

Menendez called on the Commerce Department to “establish clear and transparent standards of procurement” for vetting goods made in Xinjiang. He also asked for information about any U.S. government contractors that source cotton from China.

Xinjiang accounts for 84 percent of China’s cotton production.