US blacklists two Chinese firms over Uighur forced labour accusations

US says sanctions aim to ‘promote accountability for ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity’ in China’s Xinjiang.

A Uighur demonstrator takes part in a protest
Demonstrators take part in a protest for Uighur rights near the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, July 26, 2023 [File: Dilara Senkaya/Reuters]

The United States has sanctioned two Chinese firms over their labour practices, accusing the companies of targeting members of persecuted groups in China, including the Uighur Muslim minority.

In a statement, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said goods produced by battery manufacturer Camel Group and Chenguang Biotech Group, a spice and extract manufacturer, would be prohibited from entering the country as of Wednesday.

The move aims to “eliminate the use of forced labor practices in the US supply chain”, DHS said on Tuesday.

The sanctions also seek to “promote accountability for the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minority groups” in China’s western Xinjiang province, DHS said.

“We will continue to work with all of our partners to keep goods made with forced labor from Xinjiang out of US commerce while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade,” US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in Tuesday’s statement.

The United Nations has said at least one million Uighurs have been detained in so-called “counter-extremism centres” in Xinjiang, where rights groups have said China’s treatment of the Muslim minority amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.

But Beijing has rejected these allegations, saying its policies towards the Uighurs, as well as other minorities, are necessary to fend off “extremism”.

China’s treatment of the Uighurs has been one of several points of tension between Beijing and Washington, which have experienced frosty relations in recent years.

US President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, have imposed a series of sanctions and restrictions against Chinese companies and government officials over the situation in Xinjiang.

In March, Biden also expressed solidarity with the Uighurs in a message to Muslims around the world as they celebrated the holy month of Ramadan.

“Together with our partners, the United States stands in solidarity with Muslims who continue to face oppression, including Uighurs in the People’s Republic of China,” Biden said in a statement at the time.

The US president signed the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” in December 2021.

The law, which entered into force last year, bars goods produced in Xinjiang from being imported into the US unless there is “clear and convincing evidence” that they were not produced with forced labour.

The Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday that 24 companies have been sanctioned under the legislation to date.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies