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US sanctions 11 Chinese firms for human rights abuses in Xinjiang

Police checkpoint in Xinjiang Uyghur autonomy district (农业学大寨/WikiCommons)
July 21, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday added to its Entities List 11 Chinese companies involved in alleged human rights abuses in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), barring them from access to U.S.-sourced commodities, technology, and other items, a Department announcement said.

The companies added to the list maintained by the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) had been identified as complicit in what Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a Monday statement called Beijing’s “reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens.”

“This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations,” Ross said.

Companies named on Monday include the Changji Esquel Textile Co. Ltd., Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co. Ltd., Hefei Meiling Co. Ltd., Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. Ltd., Hetian Taida Apparel Co. Ltd., KTK Group, Nanjing Synergy Textiles Co. Ltd., Nanchang O-Film Tech, Tanyuan Technology Co. Ltd, Xinjiang Silk Road BG1, and Beijing Liuhe BG1.

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Welcoming the Commerce Department announcement, Nury Turkel, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Monday’s decision “will help ensure that the fruits of American innovation and industry are not inadvertently fueling outrageous religious freedom and labor violations.”

Two of the named firms, Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories and Hetian Taida Apparel, exploit Uyghur and other minority Muslim workers “who have been given no choice in where they work,” Turkel added.

“The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency has already stopped several shipments of clothes and hair weaves made by these companies because of concerns about forced labor.”

Additional legal authority is needed to prevent products made with forced labor from entering U.S. market, however, Turkel said.

“We urge Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would bar imports of all goods mined, produced, or manufactured in Xinjiang, unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that the goods were not produced using forced labor.”

Also on Monday, the Germany-based exile World Uyghur Congress welcomed what it called “this positive step taken by the U.S. Administration at a time when China is committing crimes against humanity in East Turkestan,” using the name preferred by many Uyghurs for their historic homeland.

“At the same time, we urge the European countries along with other democracies to follow the footsteps of the U.S. government and take immediate punitive measures against China,” WUC president Dolkun Isa said.

“There must be a concerted international effort to end China’s atrocities,” Isa said, adding, “We call on all nations to stand behind America and take joint actions against China to stop this 21st Century Holocaust.”

Chinese officials sanctioned

This month, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration leveled sanctions against several top Chinese officials deemed responsible for rights violations in Xinjiang, including regional party secretary Chen Quanguo, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The move, which marked the first time Washington had sanctioned a member of China’s powerful Politburo, followed Trump’s enactment last month of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (UHRPA), which passed nearly unanimously through both houses of Congress at the end of May.

The legislation highlights arbitrary incarceration, forced labor, and other abuses in the XUAR and provides for sanctions against the Chinese officials who enforce them.

China imposes heavy restrictions on Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the name of stamping out terrorism—including on the use of native languages, expression of traditional culture, and family planning—while discrimination abounds in favor of majority Han Chinese.

Those who do not adhere to the policies routinely end up jailed or detained in the XUAR’s vast network of internment camps, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million people since April 2017.

Beijing describes the three-year-old network of camps as voluntary “vocational centers,” but reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.