Homeland Security announced new bans Monday on hair products, clothing and computer parts from some manufacturers in the Xinjiang region of China, linking them to forced labor of Uighurs, and warning more bans are on the way.
Customs and Border Protection announced five withhold release orders (WRO) on some products shipped from the region, saying they will be blocked at ports of entry and won’t be allowed into the American market.
“These extraordinary human rights violations demand an extraordinary response,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 official at Homeland Security.
The new WROs join a handful released over the last year, and mark a major escalation of U.S. efforts to punish China for its treatment of Uighurs, whom the U.S. believes are forced into working in plants and factories.
CBP chief Mark Morgan said they also hope businesses look at their own supply chains, and consumers take a closer look at what they’re buying so they can bring their own pressure to bear on China.
“We can use our economic power to tell businesses we will not stand by,” Mr. Morgan said.
The orders include hair products from the Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park; clothing from Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co. Ltd.; cotton from Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co. Ltd; and computer parts from Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co. Ltd. in Anhui, China.
The fifth order is aimed at all products from Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center, which Mr. Cuccinelli said amounted to a “concentration camp” for Uighur persons.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and the Xinjiang government have rejected accusations of abuse of the Uighur population, and called the restrictions on imports a heavy-handed economic attack.
“What the US truly cares about is never human rights. It is just using human rights as a cover to suppress Chinese companies, undermine stability in Xinjiang and vilify China’s Xinjiang policy,” Zhao Lijian said last week. “The 1.4 billion Chinese people including all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have seen through the hypocrisy and malicious intentions of the US, as has the entire international community.”
When CBP blocks imports, shippers can either pull them back or challenge the ruling and attempt to prove the products were not made through forced labor or other violations.
Homeland Security is pondering a broader region-wide ban on certain products from the Xinjiang region. Mr. Cuccinelli said they’re still working on that and want to make sure they can back up those cases should the producers challenge the decisions by connecting the production “slave labor.”
“We build the evidence one product or industry at a time,” he said.
Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Morgan said these WROs apply to shipments from those regions, but if producers use a middleman, then the products may still be able to reach the American market. The two men said they’re working on technology to try to track that supply chain.