The Trump administration has banned imports of cotton, hair products, clothing, and other products made with forced labor from China's Xinjiang region, where the regime has detained more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other Muslim minorities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued five withhold release orders on Tuesday, which are issued when the agency has reason to believe products imported may be made in whole - or part - by forced labor (including convict labor, child labor and indentured labor).
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, dismissed the notion that the facility is a "vocational" center as has been portrayed by Chinese authorities.
Nevertheless, the issue has become a source of friction between the USA and China amid tensions that have escalated under President Donald Trump. "When China attempts to import these goods into our supply chains, it also disadvantages American workers and businesses".
The orders include hair products from the Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park; clothing from Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co. Ltd; and computer parts from Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co. Ltd.in Anhui, China.
"This is not a vocational center, it is a concentration camp, a place where religious and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse and forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom", Cuccinelli told reporters.
The United States, like other Western countries and many global organizations, accuses Beijing of carrying out large-scale persecution of Uyghurs and of arbitrarily interning more than one million Muslims in Xinjiang in camps. "It is just using human rights as a cover to suppress Chinese companies, undermine stability in Xinjiang and vilify China's Xinjiang policy", Zhao Lijian said last week.
The CBP in June seized 13 tons of human hair products suspected to have been made with forced labor from Xinjiang.
DHS officials said the ban was part of the Trump administration's effort to crack down on the Chinese Communist Party's atrocities in the region, including holding Uyghur people in what they have labeled "concentration camps". Mr. Cuccinelli said they're still working on that and want to make sure they can back up those cases should the producers challenge the decisions by connecting the production "slave labor".
"We build the evidence one product or industry at a time", he said.