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China threatens Intel for banning Xinjiang slave-made goods; Intel later apologizes

Xi Jinping speaks to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 28, 2017. (Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
December 23, 2021

China threatened U.S. chip maker Intel after the company told its suppliers not to use products or labor from the Xinjiang region due to governmental restrictions for reported forced labor and other human rights abuses against the Uyghurs by the Chinese Communist Party. Intel later apologized in Chinese for its comments.

According to Reuters on Wednesday, Intel said it is “required to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region” after “multiple governments” imposed restrictions on China.

The Chinese state-run publication Global Times called Intel’s statement “absurd” and said the company is “biting the hand that feeds it.” Intel earned 26 percent of its total revenue from China last year.

“What we need to do is to make it increasingly expensive for companies to offend China so their losses outweigh their gains,” an editorial in the Global Times stated. “In fact, Washington in recent years has launched a technology crackdown against China which has forced China to accelerate its space of independent research and development. As far as chips are concerned, although there is still a gap between China and the US in high-end chips, the gap is narrowing. Those calculations and speculations that ignore facts will not be worth a penny eventually, and only become a historical joke.”

After China threatened to make things “increasingly expensive” for companies who offend China, Intel apologized to the communist nation for its comments on Xinjiang, Reuters reported Thursday.

Intel issued the Chinese-language apology on its official WeChat and Weibo social media accounts on Thursday, writing that the company was simply complying with United States law rather than taking a stance on forced labor in China.  

“We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China,” Intel said.

Earlier this year, Uyghur exiles described the human rights violations being committed against them by the Chinese Communist Party, including forced abortions, killings, torture, rape, enslavement, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, labor, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural and religious heritage, persecution, forced marriages, and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households.

Earlier this year, the State Department said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs and members of Xinjiang’s other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.

“China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups,” Blinken said.