US blocks certain imports from China’s Uighur region

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WASHINGTON 

The US on Monday blocked the import of certain goods from China’s Xinjiang region over allegations that they were manufactured using forced labor in Beijing’s Uighur re-education camps.  

The banned items include cotton, computer parts, apparel and hair products made at a series of facilities in Xinjiang, according to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“By taking this action, DHS is combating illegal and inhumane forced labor, a type of modern slavery, used to make goods that the Chinese government then tries to import into the United States,” Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.

CBP will now seize any of the identified goods if they make it to US shores.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the directives to ban the goods, known as Withhold Release Orders (WROs), “demonstrate that the world will not stand for” China’s “human rights abuses against Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, which include subjecting individuals to forced labor and stripping them of their freedom and agency to choose how and where they work.”

“These actions send a clear message to the PRC that it is time to end its practice of state-sponsored forced labor and to respect the human rights of all people,” Pompeo said using an acronym referring to China.

The US government uses an alternate spelling for “Uighur.”

The decision to ban the goods comes as the Trump administration continues to take a tougher line on China’s treatment of its Muslim-minority Uighur ethnic group.

In July, the US blacklisted a current and a former Chinese government official, as well as a paramilitary organization accused of being instrumental in Beijing’s crackdown on the Turkic-Muslim group.

The Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination. 

Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.

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