The US has banned the import of five goods from China, including computer-parts, cotton, and hair products, alleging that they are produced in forced labor camps in the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
The US-China relations have deteriorated after the COVID-19 outbreak, with President Donald Trump squarely blaming Beijing for allowing the disease to spread across the world.
The relations have further worsened over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, autonomy of Hong Kong, Tibet, and technology theft.
In a statement on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the products subject to the import ban are cotton, apparel, computer parts, and hair products. The fifth ban is on all products made with labour from the Lop County Number 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center in Xinjiang.
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These goods are produced with state-sponsored forced labour in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where the Chinese government is engaged in systemic human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minorities, the DHS statement said.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had earlier issued five Withhold Release Orders (WRO) to uphold the ban.
The WROs prevent goods from being imported into the US when there are accusations of forced labour.
“The Trump Administration has led the world in calling attention to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) egregious human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and we’ve taken action to back up our rhetoric,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“These actions send a clear message to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) that it is time to end its practice of state-sponsored forced labour and to respect the human rights of all people,” he said.
In line with the WROs, the CBP will now detain shipments of these goods. The ban on goods produced using forced labour is in line with the US customs laws.
“These orders demonstrate that the world will not stand for the PRC’s human rights abuses against Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, which include subjecting individuals to forced labour and stripping them of their freedom and agency to choose how and where they work,” Pompeo said.
By taking this action, the 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, said Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.
When China attempts to import these goods into our supply chains, it also disadvantages American workers and businesses, he pointed out.
“President Trump and this department have and always will put American workers and businesses first and protect American citizens from participating in these egregious human rights violations,” he said.
In fiscal year 2020, the CBP has issued an unprecedented 12 WROs, including eight on products from China.
In July, the US sanctioned three senior members of the CPC for the “unjust detention and abuse of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang”.
China is accused of mass detentions, religious persecution and forced sterilisation of Uighurs and others in the resource-rich northwestern province.