US halts imports from China’s Uighur region over suspected forced labor

US puts block on Chinese products from Uighur 'forced labor'

"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", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The treatment of people in Xinjiang has become a source of friction between the US and China amid broader tensions over trade and the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

CBP also halted imports of hair products made at a manufacturing facility where authorities believe Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are forced to work.

The Trump administration on Monday shelved plans for a broad import ban on cotton and tomato products from China's Xinjiang region while announcing narrower bans on products from five specific entities. "It's modern slavery", said Ken Cuccinelli, Deputy Minister of Homeland Security.

The Withhold Release Orders allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to detain shipments based on suspicion of forced-labor involvement under long-standing U.S. laws to combat human trafficking, child labor and other human rights abuses.

The 1930 Tariff Act prohibits imports produced with prison or slave labor to ensure fair competition with USA manufacturers.

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One of Xinjiang's "vocational skills education and training centers" is also named in the order, a name used euphemistically by Beijing to refer to the large re-education camps where inmates from Muslim minorities are allegedly detained, made to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, and work as free or low-priced forced labor in factories and nearby facilities.

The CBP orders apply to cotton produced and processed by Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co.in Xinjiang; apparel produced by Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co. and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co.in Xinjiang; hair products made in the Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park in Xinjiang; all products made with labor from the Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center in Xinjiang; and computer parts made by Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co.in Anhui Province.

The U.S. Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the importation of goods produced with the help of forced labor.

China also had agreed to purchase increased quantities of USA cotton under the countries' Phase 1 trade deal, which could be put at risk by a US ban on imports from China's dominant cotton-producing region.

China has denied widespread and consistent reports of abuse and mistreatment of the Uighurs and other minorities, defending the campaign as an effort to crackdown on extremism and claiming the detention camps are for vocational and Chinese language training.

The US trade action is the latest in a series of steps by the Trump administration targeting Chinese authorities and businesses over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

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