Several recent reports have documented how Chinese authorities have forced Uighurs and other Muslims swept up in the crackdown to work in factories producing goods such as textiles, electronics, food products and handicrafts. Some of the factories are in, or adjacent to, the concentration camps into which Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in Xinjiang have been forcibly herded. But tens of thousands of Uighurs have also been transferred to factories elsewhere in China, under a program with the Orwellian name “Xinjiang Aid.”
Shockingly, many of these workers are producing goods directly or indirectly for such Western companies as Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, Apple and Amazon. A report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China this month identified 20 Chinese and Western companies that “are suspected of directly employing forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that use it.” In addition to brand-name clothing manufacturers, Coca-Cola, Costco and Campbell Soup Company are on the list.
A second report, by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies “directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs.” In addition to Apple and Amazon (whose founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post), companies on that list include Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, General Motors and Google.
U.S. companies that purchase or import goods made with forced labor may be in violation of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits products made “wholly or in part” with forced or prison labor, according to the Congressional-Executive Commission. While many of these firms launch investigations to determine whether their supply chains are clean, the commission found that doing so is virtually impossible, because coerced workers are unable to speak freely to investigators.
As a practical matter, the companies are “willfully ignoring the horrific conditions of forced labor in Xinjiang,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), charged in a letter this past week to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Mr. Menendez urged action by the Commerce Department to stop the import of tainted goods, including purchasers of Chinese cotton, 84 percent of which comes from Xinjiang.
More stringent measures are proposed by the Congressional-Executive Commission, whose bipartisan congressional leadership introduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit the import of all goods produced or manufactured in Xinjiang except for those certified by U.S. customs as not tainted by forced labor. Importers would have to present customs officials with “clear and convincing evidence” that their supply chains were clean, a high standard. And the State Department would be required to report on products made with forced labor in Xinjiang as well as businesses that sold them in the United States.
The United States and other nations probably cannot stop the crimes against humanity China is committing in Xinjiang. But it ought at least to be possible to prevent U.S. and other Western companies from profiting from them.