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U.S. warns companies against doing business in Xinjiang

The United States accuses China of committing genocide in its northwestern region of Xinjiang. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
The United States accuses China of committing genocide in its northwestern region of Xinjiang. File photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday warned businesses with supply chain and investments linked to China's northwestern region of Xinjiang that they could face legal consequences if they don't find other options as the United States increases pressure over Beijing's use of forced labor and other human rights abuses being committed against its Uighur Muslim citizens.

The United States has repeatedly accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang, most recently on Monday in a State Department report on atrocities being committed worldwide.

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China has been accused by Western nations of interning more than a million Uighur and other Muslim minority citizens since at least 2017 in Xinjiang camps where they are subjected to forced labor, sterilization and disappearances. The Asian nation vehemently rejects the accusations, saying the camps are for re-education purposes to stamp out terrorism while critics of Beijing say it is attempting to erase their culture to force assimilation.

Along with its repeated accusations, the United States has also imposed repeated punitive measures against China over its conduct in Xinjiang including sanctions and prohibiting products from the region from entering the country.

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In a joint statement Tuesday, the departments of State, Commerce and Homeland Security and the Treasury warned companies that if they continue to do business in Xinjiang they "could run a high risk of violating U.S. law."

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"The People's Republic of China government continues its horrific abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China, targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz who are predominately Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups," the departments said. "These abuses include widespread state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance, forced population control measures and separation of children from families, mass detention and other human rights abuses amidst ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity."

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement Tuesday that the warning underscores the Biden administration's commitment to holding China to account. She also praised ally nations who have committed to banning the import of goods from Xinjiang, including Canada and Mexico.

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The European Union on Tuesday also issued its own business guidance to counter forced labor in the global supply chain.

"I want to commend our allies for sending a clear sign that there is no place of forced labor in a fair, rules-based international trading system," she said.

The warning, which is an update to one made to businesses last July, was issued after the Commerce Department on Friday added 14 Chinese companies to its Entity List over their enabling of China's repression campaign in Xinjiang. In late June, the White House directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prohibit the import of products used in solar panels they say are manufactured through the forced labor of Uighurs.

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China has yet to remark on the warning, but Beijing's foreign ministry spokespeople frequently rebuke the punitive measures as meddling in its internal affairs.

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