Effective since 13 January, at all US ports of entry, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has started detaining cotton products produced in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
CBP issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against cotton products produced in Xinjiang based on information that reasonably indicates the use of detainee or prison labour and situations of forced labour.
These products include apparels, textiles and other goods made with cotton.
Importers are responsible for ensuring the products they are attempting to import do not exploit forced labour at any point in their supply chain, including the production or harvesting of the raw material.
The agency identified the following forced labour indicators through the course of its investigation: debt bondage, restriction of movement, isolation, intimidation and threats, withholding of wages and abusive living and working conditions.
Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinell said, “DHS will not tolerate forced labour of any kind in US supply chains. We will continue to protect the American people and investigate credible allegations of forced labour, we will prevent goods made by forced labour from entering our country, and we demand the Chinese close their camps and stop their human rights violations.”
“CBP will not tolerate Chinese Government’s exploitation of modern slavery to import goods into the United States below fair market value,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. “Imports made on the cheap by using forced labour hurt American businesses that respect human rights and also expose unsuspecting consumers to unethical purchases.”
It is pertinent to mention here that in July 2020, the US Government issued an advisory to caution businesses about the reputational, financial and legal risks of forced labour in Xinjiang, where the Chinese Government continues to execute a campaign of repression targeting the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minority groups.
On 2 December 2020, CBP announced the issuance of a WRO on cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary organisation subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party.