Nearly 13 tons of hair from a manufacturer in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), northwestern China, were seized last week as part of a broader move by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to tackle the issue of forced labor in the region.
The confiscation of the shipment from Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. came after a months-long investigation into the manufacturer and into forced labor in XUAR at large.
Forced labor has emerged as a significant component of the state-sponsored persecution of Uyghurs and other people from local Muslim and Turkic ethnic groups, over one million of whom have been detained since 2017.
With the import of items made with forced labor banned under federal law, CBP has been moving to crack down on goods originating from XUAR.
Indeed, Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade, said that the region has become the agency’s most active area in the world in terms of forced labor investigations.
Last week’s events were the result of a withhold-release order to stop cargo from the manufacturer at U.S. ports of entry, which CBP officials are authorized to issue where they suspect forced labor.
Two more manufacturers of hair products were also blacklisted.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Ms. Smith said the seizure served as a reminder that U.S. importers are obligated to ensure that their supply chains are free of forced labor.
“We are foot-stomping that message with our communications,” she said.
Wednesday’s detention of the hair shipment—which included products such as hair weaves and extensions—marks the next phase of the agency’s investigation into Lop County Meixin Hair Product’s manufacturing process. Customs officials will further evaluate whether the hair came from humans and whether the hair came from a forced donation or was sold willingly by the donor.
The Chinese embassy in Washington, like the Chinese government, denies all allegations of wrongdoing, but their claims are contradicted by numerous survivors, human rights observers, and academics.
Exiled Uyghurs this week urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the Chinese government for genocide and crimes against humanity, citing forced sterilization and abortions in addition to forced labor.
Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which sanctions Chinese officials involved in the campaign of repression in XUAR, with near-unanimous bipartisan support.
Freedom United partner organization the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is urging Congress to go further by passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would extend the type of ban the CBP has placed on certain companies to all goods produced in XUAR.
Over 20,000 have signed Freedom United’s petition calling on the Chinese government to end its system of forced labor and end its persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority groups.
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