The United States will block a range of Chinese goods it says are made by forced labor in the Xinjiang region, including from a center it has called a “concentration camp” for Uyghur minorities .
Washington’s move comes as the EU urged Beijing to let independent observers enter Xinjiang and warned that China must make concessions if it wants to strike a major investment deal with the bloc.
US Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan accused the Chinese government of “systematic abuse against the Uyghur people” and other minorities.
“Forced labor is an atrocious violation of human rights,” he said.
The blocked items will include cotton, clothing, hair products and electronics from five specific manufacturers in Xinjiang.
It also included all products related to the Lop County No.4 Vocational Education and Training Center in Xinjiang, which Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said was a forced labor center.
“It is not a professional center, it is a concentration camp, a place where religious and ethnic minorities are victims of abuse and forced to work in odious conditions without recourse and without freedom,” Cuccinelli told journalists. “It’s modern slavery.”
The actions announced consisted of “Withholding Release Orders” or WROs, which allow US Customs to seize products from blacklisted businesses and organizations.
The US government is increasingly using such orders to pressure Beijing to detain more than a million members of Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority for apparent re-education.
In July, the customs agency placed blocks on hair products, used for wigs and extensions, from several companies operating in Xinjiang, and in August did the same for clothing made and sold by the Hero Group. Vast.
“The Chinese government must close its concentration camps,” Cuccinelli said.
The European Union’s call for an independent observer in Xinjiang came during video discussions between EU leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping, mainly focused on trade and climate change.
“We reiterated our concerns about the treatment given by China to minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists,” said EU Council President Charles Michel.
“We demanded access to independent observers in Xinjiang and demanded the release of arbitrarily detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens.
Rights groups, academics and journalists have documented a harsh crackdown on Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims in Xinjiang, including mass internments, forced sterilizations, forced labor as well as intense religious and movement restrictions.
Activists say around one million Uyghurs and others have been held in brainwashing camps, although Beijing describes them as vocational training centers and says it seeks to provide education to reduce the burden. attraction of Islamic radicalism.
At Monday’s virtual meeting, which replaced a canceled full summit with the 27 EU leaders, Europeans also pressed Xi on Hong Kong, where the West says Beijing is attacking historic freedoms.
“The Hong Kong National Security Law continues to cause serious concern. The EU and our Member States responded with one clear voice: democratic voices in Hong Kong must be heard, rights protected and autonomy preserved, ”said Michel.