China’s communist government remains engaged in genocide and “horrific” human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in western China, the State Department said on Tuesday.
The abuses are outlined in an updated warning to businesses that purchasing Chinese-made goods or services from Xinjiang derived from forced labor or supporting sanctioned mass surveillance could violate U.S. law.
In January, the State Department called what it said was the systematic Chinese torture and imprisonment of more than 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities genocide and crimes against humanity. China has angrily denied the designation and has said its treatment of Uyghurs and others is “reeducation.”
“The PRC’s crimes against humanity include imprisonment, torture, rape, forced sterilization, and persecution, including through forced labor and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement,” according to the updated supply chain advisory published by the State Department along with five other government departments.
Beijing “continues its horrific abuses in the Xinjiang” and elsewhere targeting predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz who are part of ethnic and religious minority groups, a State Department fact sheet states.
The 36-page advisory warns that businesses, investors and people who do not halt deals for Xinjiang-origin goods and services that they “run a high risk of violating U.S. law,” as well as “significant reputational, economic, and legal risks” for any connection to forced labor and mass surveillance activities in the region. Businesses and people who fail to shun supply chains, ventures or investments linked to Xinjiang abuses could be investigated for a variety of crimes based on human-rights-related laws.
China has a history of using prison labor to produce many goods for export.
The report lists agricultural goods such as raw cotton, hami melons, korla pears, tomato products and garlic. Other prison-made products and goods from China include cellphones, cleaning supplies, construction material, fake hair and wigs, footwear, gloves, printing products, noodles, stevia, sugar, textiles, carpets and toys.
Manufacturing and services linked to Chinese prisons include electronic assembly, food processing factories, hospitality services, and extractives such as coal, copper, hydrocarbons, oil, uranium and zinc.
Prison labor also is used for making metallurgical-grade silicon and renewable energy, including polysilicon, ingots, wafers, crystalline silicon solar cells, and crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic modules.
China’s detention camps, which house more than 1 million people, are being expanded in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, two other western regions, the report said. All the camps are used for arbitrary detentions of ethnic and religious minorities and forced labor, critics say.
The Tuesday update of a 2020 report was published “in light of growing evidence of the use of forced labor in Xinjiang and the Secretary of State’s determinations that the PRC government has committed genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” said the advisory, issued jointly by several government agencies.
Customs and Border Patrol has blocked the import of goods made with prison labor, and the Commerce Department has placed companies linked to mass repression in Xinjiang on the blacklist of companies that are denied licenses for selling goods to the United States.
Detainees in the Xinjiang camps suffered extreme overcrowding, sleep and food deprivation, medical neglect, physical and psychological abuse, torture, forced labor, forced ingestion of unidentified drugs, forced sterilizations and abortions, and sexual abuse, the report said.
Other abuses involved the forced renunciation of religion and denial of prayer. Muslims also were forced to consume pork or alcohol.
Uyghurs and other target groups have been denied the use of the native language and are forced to study and recite Chinese Communist Party propaganda, the report said.
“There are reports that some detainees have died in the internment camps, or very shortly after release, as a result of abuse and neglect,” the report said. “Businesses and individuals should be aware of the atrocities against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and members of other ethnic and other religious minority groups.”
The prison camp system is connected to business throughout China.
According to Xinjiang government documents, a large-scale program called “mutual pairing assistance” links companies outside of Xinjiang to set up satellite factories that are part of concentration camps.
“Reports indicate that, through the PRC government’s mutual pairing assistance program, 19 cities and developed provinces, generally in the eastern part of China, are spending billions of Chinese yuan to establish factories in Xinjiang,” the report said.
Some factories require parents to leave children as young as 18 months while being forced or coerced into working full time under nonstop surveillance. Their children are sent to state-controlled orphanages and other facilities.
The report said mounting evidence indicates that large solar power supply chains in nearly every step of the production process from raw materials to final solar panel assembly “are linked to known or probable forced labor programs.”
A total of 45% of solar-grade polysilicon used in solar panels comes from Xinjiang, and Chinese companies control 70% of the global market for polysilicon.