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US warns action against companies engaged in business with Xinjiang

WASHINGTON DC, USA: The USA has warned businesses with supply chain and investment ties to China’s Xinjiang province that they could face legal consequences, citing growing evidence of genocide and other human rights abuses in the country’s northwest region.

The most-pointed line from the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory – published jointly by the State Department, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Labor and the Office of the US Trade Representative – states that “businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating US law.”

The updated advisory strengthens previous warnings to companies by highlighting potential violations of US law if their operations are linked even “indirectly” to the Chinese government in Xinjiang.

“The People’s Republic of China government continues its horrific abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China, targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and ethnic Kyrgyz who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote in a statement Tuesday.

“These abuses include widespread, state-sponsored forced labour and intrusive surveillance, forced population control measures and separation of children from families, mass detention, and other human rights abuses amidst ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” he added.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

On Friday, the Biden administration added 14 Chinese companies and other entities to its economic blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang.

“Given the severity and extent of these abuses, businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law,” the State Department said in a joint statement with the Treasury, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Labour and the Office of the US Trade Representative also signed onto the advisory for the first time.

The United Nations estimates at least one million people have been held in recent years in a network of re-education camps in the far western region, which Beijing says are vocational skills training centres necessary to combat “extremism”.

Researchers have also documented other abuses including forced sterilisation, the demolition of mosques, clearance of Muslim cemeteries and family separations. Amnesty International last month accused China of creating a “dystopian hellscape” in Xinjiang.

The advisory says those wanting to do business in Xinjiang should be alert to the potential risks in connection with the development of surveillance tools, sourcing goods and labour from Xinjiang – or elsewhere along the supply chain in China – providing US products including software or aiding in the construction or operation of internment centres or factories nearby.

In March, the United States sanctioned two Chinese officials, citing their roles in serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

The sanctions by the Biden administration complement actions also taken by the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Beijing has previously rejected US charges that it has committed genocide against the Uyghurs, a Muslim population indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China. The Foreign Ministry called such claims “malicious lies” designed to “smear China” and “frustrate China’s development.”

US Customs and Border Protection has also banned some solar equipment imports from the region.

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