Editor’s note: There is bipartisan concern with imports of goods using forced labor, especially from China. US law bans such goods from being imported, but stateless multinationals ignore the law and Customs enforcement has not been strong.
WASHINGTON— Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) led Members of Congress on a series of letters to the CEOs of American companies today, calling on them to stop the use of forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim population in China. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has painstakingly tracked both forced transfers of workers from Xinjiang to other parts of China, and the use of Uyghur labor in factories within Xinjiang.
[Rep. Ilhan Omar | April 6, 2020 | Omar.House.gov]
The letters were signed by Rep. James P. McGovern, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Andy Levin, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, and Rep. Jamie Raskin.
“The treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim people by the Chinese government – which the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has determined may amount to crimes against humanity – has drawn fierce and sustained bipartisan condemnation,” the Members wrote. “American companies using forced Uyghur labor, intentionally or unintentionally, is profoundly disturbing. Among the acts that comprise crimes against humanity, Uyghurs have been allegedly subjected to enslavement, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, and persecution against a collective group of people. Put simply, it is our strong belief that nobody should be profiting from these conditions. As you are well aware, American companies represent this country in your business abroad. It is essential that your values are in line with the basic principles of human rights.”
“Importing goods that were made in whole or in part by forced labor is a violation of American law, and numerous international human rights and labor rights standards,” Rep. Omar said. “No American company should be profiting from the use of gulag labor, or from Uyghur prisoners who are transferred for work after their time in Xinjiang’s concentration camps. This harkens back to some of the darkest moments in our history, and Americans want to know that the clothing and electronics they are buying are not tainted by the use of forced labor. Particularly during this global health crisis, the connections between us and the need to protect the most vulnerable could not be starker or more urgent.”
A PDF of all the letters can be found here, and a sample letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook can be read below.
One Apple Parkway
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Cook,
We are writing to express our deep concern regarding recent reporting from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that links your company to the use of forced Uyghur labor in China. Last year, the Senate passed the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act unanimously, and the House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 407-1.
The treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim people by the Chinese government – which the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has determined may amount to crimes against humanity – has drawn fierce and sustained bipartisan condemnation. That American companies would be using forced Uyghur labor, intentionally or unintentionally, is profoundly disturbing.
The specific claims against Apple in ASPI’s report include your alleged use of:
- Changji Esquel Textile Co. Ltd, which participated in a “job fair” to organize labor transfers in Xinjiang, and used an admitted 34 forced Uyghur workers;
- Foxconn Technology, one of the factories in Henan province where 560 workers were transferred from Xinjiang in late 2019, and the facility that reportedly makes half of the world’s iPhones;
- Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd, where 105 Uyghur workers were transferred on May 17th, 2018;
- Highbroad Advanced Material Co. Ltd, where more than 500 Uyghur workers were transferred in November 2017, and which sells predominantly to BOE Technology Group, reportedly set to become Apple’s second-largest OLED screen supplier by 2021;
5) O-Film Technology Co. Ltd, which received a transfer of 700 people from Xinjiang in May 2017 and where a Uyghur worker claimed to have worked with more than 1,000 Uyghurs, and which you personally visited in 2017.
As you are no doubt aware, the import of products made wholly or in part with forced or prison labor is in violation of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 USC 1307.) It is also in violation of numerous international human rights and labor rights standards.
Among the acts that comprise crimes against humanity, Uyghurs have been allegedly subjected to enslavement, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, and persecution against a collective group of people. Put simply, it is our strong belief that nobody should be profiting from these conditions.
In light of the gravity of the situation, as we consider legislative options, we ask the following:
- Were you aware of these allegations before the release of ASPI’s report?
- Has your company in fact sourced from the factories identified in the ASPI report? If so, for how long?
- What precautions have you taken regarding your company’s supply chain in China, especially in regards to goods or materials produced in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), excludes any use of forced labor and is in compliance with Section 307?
- What audits or investigations has your company undertaken to ensure that your factories or the factories you source from do not use forced labor? How do you ensure that such audits or investigations are independent? Will you make available copies of any audits or investigations carried out over the last three years?
Member of Congress
Rep. James P. McGovern
Rep. Rashida Tlaib
Rep. Andy Levin
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Jamie Raskin
Read the original letters here.