By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - The US announced Wednesday that is banning imports of cotton products from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) based on information that indicates the use of forced labor in northwestern China.
The Department of Homeland Security said Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel at all US ports of entry will detain shipments from XPCC, a state-owned economic and paramilitary organization which is said to be benefitting from goods made by forced labor from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region.
"CBP’s Office of Trade directed the issuance of a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against cotton products made by the XPCC based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, including convict labor," the agency said in a statement.
"The WRO applies to all cotton and cotton products produced by the XPCC and its subordinate and affiliated entities as well as any products that are made in whole or in part with or derived from that cotton, such as apparel, garments and textiles," it added.
DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said the Chinese government's rights abuses against Muslim and ethnic minorities will not be tolerated by President Donald Trump and the American people.
"DHS is taking the lead to enforce our laws to make sure human rights abusers, including US businesses, are not allowed to manipulate our system in order to profit from slave labor. ‘Made in China’ is not just a country of origin; it is a warning label," said Cuccinelli in the same statement.
In July, Washington blacklisted XPCC, which it accused of being instrumental in Beijing's crackdown on Turkic-Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, along with Sun Jinlong, a former XPCC operative, and Peng Jiarui, a Chinese government official and XPCC commander.
Beijing's policy in Xinjiang has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who accuse it of ostracizing the 12 million Uighurs in China, most of whom are Muslims.
The region is home to 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Up to 1 million people or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang have been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to US officials and UN experts.
The camps have been linked to forced labor and mandatory sterilization.