WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today applauded the efforts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection for combatting forced labor in China with the issuance of a withhold release order on cotton harvested or processed by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, including any products made from that cotton, such as apparel, garments and textiles. The order prevents the importation of these goods into the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor,” updated by the Department’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) on Sept. 30, 2020, includes cotton, garments and textiles as goods believed to be made with forced labor in China. The list serves as an important source of information for U.S. government agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, as well as for companies practicing due diligence in their supply chains.
The release of the withhold release order, along with the Department’s list of goods made with forced labor, is part of a broader U.S. government effort to address forced labor with ties to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where more than one million Uyghurs and other ethnic or religious, primarily Muslim, minorities have been detained. Estimates are that at least 100,000, and possibly as many as hundreds of thousands, of Uyghurs and other ethnic or religious minorities in China may be working in conditions of forced labor following detention in re-education camps.
The Department’s list draws from published victims’ testimonies, and media and think tank reports, to determine the various industries implicated in this system of forced labor. Reports indicate that many of these victims of forced labor operate under poor working conditions; receive little to no pay; endure constant government-sponsored surveillance; remain confined to the workplace; are unable to contact their family members or are monitored when doing so; undergo Chinese Communist Party indoctrination; and experience retribution for their religious beliefs, among others.
In July 2020, the U.S. Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security released an advisory for businesses with potential ties to Xinjiang. This business advisory, the list of goods produced with forced labor, and ILAB’s Comply Chain due diligence app for businesses are practical tools that raise awareness for the business community and help firms comply with U.S. law.
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