Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has turned up economic pressure on China by barring U.S. imports of cotton products that it says are made through forced labor by detained Uighur Muslims.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the order Wednesday banning the imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp., which is one of China's largest cotton producers.
The order bans imports of cotton and products like garments and textiles from Xinjiang Production and Construction.
The order is the sixth U.S. action against forced labor in China's western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Federal authorities say Beijing has repressed Uyghur Muslims in the region, as well as other ethnic and religious minority groups there.
"The human rights abuses taking place at the hands of the Chinese Communist government will not be tolerated by President Trump and the American people," Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.
"[We are] taking the lead to enforce our laws to make sure human rights abusers, including U.S. businesses, are not allowed to manipulate our system in order to profit from slave labor."
Beijing's foreign ministry on Thursday rejected accusations of forced labor.
"It must be noted that helping people of all ethnic groups find stable employment and 'forced labor' are completely different concepts," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Hua added that all workers in Xinjiang work at their own will and voluntarily sign contracts with companies in keeping with the principle of equality.
"[They] will not be discriminated against due to differences in ethnicity, gender and religious beliefs," Hua said.
"Certain U.S. politicians claimed that they care about and protect the rights of ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but on the other hand, they restricted and suppressed Xinjiang's enterprises by using pressure and sanctions and disrupted Xinjiang's stable development and prosperity."
Xinjiang Production is a large conglomerate and quasi-military organization that operates farms, factories and internment camps in western China.
"As much as we want to go after and target those entities [using forced labor], as an alternative we also don't want to inadvertently envelop entities into that which are not," Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said.
"That's why we are going to continue to investigate and we are not going to issue a region-wide [ban] until we feel we can implement that correctly."