U.S. urges companies to steer clear of Chinese forced labor

Doug Palmer
·2 min read

The Trump administration has cautioned U.S. companies about doing business with Chinese suppliers that rely on the forced labor of Uighurs, an ethnic group that lives mostly in China's Xinjiang province.

"The advisory will make businesses aware of the potential exposure in their supply chains to entities that engage in human rights abuses in Xinjiang — or elsewhere in China — and the associated reputational, economic, and legal risks of such involvement," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Why it matters: The advisory comes as relations between the United States and China continue to deteriorate over a range of issues, including Beijing's approval of a new national security law to help squash dissent in Hong Kong.

The rising tensions raise questions about whether China will continue to honor its commitments under a "phase one" trade deal with the United States, which the Trump administration has trumpeted as a landmark achievement.

Specifics: The U.S. Department of State, along with the departments of Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, issued the advisory to caution businesses about the risks of supply chain links to entities that engage in human rights abuses, including forced labor in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China.

The notice accused the Chinese government of carrying out "a campaign of repression in Xinjiang, targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups."

The Commerce Department previously has put 37 Chinese enterprises on its "Entity List" for engaging in or enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a move that further restricts their access to U.S. goods and technology through much tougher licensing requirements.

What's next: Pompeo has hinted at further action against China over the Hong Kong issue. The Trump administration has already imposed visa restrictions on certain current and former Chinese officials, and tightened export restrictions on shipments of defense and high-tech equipment to Hong Kong.