US restricts Chinese apparel and tech products, citing forced labor

Ana Swanson, The New York Times

Posted at Sep 15 2020 06:42 AM

The flags of the US and China are displayed as President Donald Trump and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, meet at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29, 2019. Erin Schaff, The New York Times/File

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday announced new restrictions on imports of apparel, hair products and technology goods from certain Chinese companies, saying those entities had used forced labor in the Xinjiang region to make their products.

The measure would allow US customs agents to detain and potentially destroy goods brought into the country that are made by the named companies or entities in Xinjiang, a far western region where China has detained as many as 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in internment camps and prisons.

While the move is likely to further inflame tensions between the United States and China, it stops short of a more sweeping ban on cotton and tomatoes produced in Xinjiang that the administration was poised to announce last week. That measure had alarmed apparel companies that use Chinese cotton and spurred concern among some administration officials, who were worried it could hurt economic relations with China and prompt possible retaliation on US-grown cotton, according to people familiar with the internal discussions.

In a briefing with reporters Monday, officials with the Department of Homeland Security said that the broader measure was undergoing further legal analysis, and that more announcements could soon follow.

The so-called withhold release orders announced by Customs and Border Protection on Monday target all products made with labor from the Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center in Xinjiang, which provides prison labor to nearby manufacturing entities, the border agency said.

The orders will also restrict hair products made in the Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park, apparel produced by Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co. and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co., cotton produced and processed by Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co., and computer parts made by Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co.

“These extraordinary human rights violations demand an extraordinary response,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said of China’s actions in Xinjiang. “This is modern-day slavery.”

The economic scope of the order was not immediately clear, and border agency officials declined to specify the dollar value of imports from these companies.

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