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U.S. lawmakers want proof Olympic uniforms not made with Xinjiang forced labor

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U.S. lawmakers want proof Olympic uniforms not made with Xinjiang forced labor
U.S. lawmakers are asking the International Olympic Committee to prove that uniforms for the upcoming Beijing Winter Games were not made with forced labor in Xinjiang Province.  File Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is asking the International Olympic Committee for answers about uniforms for the upcoming Beijing Winter Games made with cotton from Xinjiang Province, where China is accused of widespread human rights abuses.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a letter Wednesday to IOC President Thomas Bach seeking clarification on the group's contracts with a pair of manufacturers, Anta Sports and Hengyuanxiang Group, which have stated publicly that they source cotton from Xinjiang.

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Cotton produced in Xinjiang is "synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there," the CECC letter said.

"There is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor," it continued.

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Researchers say that at least 1 million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs have been held in re-education camps in Xinjiang Province, and have been subject to abuses that include torture, forced labor and forced sterilization. China denies all allegations.

In December, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, banning imports from Xinjiang unless suppliers are able to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that the products are not made with forced labor.

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The United States also announced last month that it would not send diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing Olympics over what White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses."

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Wednesday's letter was sent by commission chairman Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and co-chairman Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., and was signed by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J.

"As a starting point to fulfilling its commitment to uphold and respect human rights, and in line with the preservation of human dignity enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the IOC must uphold and respect the human rights of those who made the uniforms on their backs," the letter said.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are set to run from Feb. 4 to 20.

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