US warns firms sourcing from Xinjiang

6 July 2020

The US government escalated its war of words against Chinese abuses in the province of Xinjiang as it warned US companies against doing business with suppliers that rely on the forced labour of Uighur Muslims.

A joint statement by the US Department of State and the departments of Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security cautioned businesses about the risks of supply chain links to organisations engaging in human rights abuses.

“The advisory will make businesses aware of the potential exposure in their supply chains to entities that engage in human rights abuses in Xinjiang – or elsewhere in China – and the associated reputational, economic, and legal risks of such involvement,” said secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

The statement urged businesses to evaluate their exposure to these risks and implement due diligence policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance across the “upstream and downstream” supply chain.

The statement identified three primary types of supply chain exposure to entities engaged in human rights abuses.

The first was helping develop surveillance tools for the Chinese government in Xinjiang and the second was relying on labour or goods sourced from the province or from factories elsewhere in China that might have been connected with forced Uighur labour.

The third was helping build internment facilities used to detain Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups, or manufacturing facilities which use forced labour.

The statement said the Chinese government had carried out “a campaign of repression in Xinjiang, targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups”.

In March the US Congress proposed laws forcing companies to prove there was no forced labour in their supply chains.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China said the laws would oblige corporations seeking to import goods produced in Xinjiang to demonstrate through “clear and convincing” evidence that no forced labour was involved.

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