On Thursday Jun 10th, American companies like Amazon.com, Apple and Nike received heavy criticism from a US Senator. This is in relation to allegations of forced labour in China, which the US companies turned a blind eye to. The Senator argues that American consumers are being complicit in Beijing’s repressive policies.
Profiting from forced labour
While making his speech at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Republican Senator Marco Rubio made the criticism. The topic discussed at length during the hearing was China’s crackdown on Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in western Xinjiang.
Senator Rubio said many US companies have not woken up to realize that they were “profiting” from the Chinese government’s abuses on its minorities.
Rubio said “For far too long companies like Nike and Apple and Amazon and Coca-Cola were using forced labour. They were benefiting from forced labour or sourcing from suppliers that were suspected of using forced labour.”
“These companies, sadly, were making all of us complicit in these crimes.”
Authoritarian surveillance industry
Some US technology companies have been profiting from the Chinese government’s “authoritarian surveillance industry”, according to Senator Ed Markey. Senator Markey is leading the hearing with fellow Democrat Senator Tim Kaine. Markey also said that many products “are being used in Xinjiang right now”.
Back in 2019, genetic sequencing equipment supplier Thermo Fisher Scientific said they would stop selling their equipment into Xinjiang. This is because media and several rights groups documented Chinese authorities building a DNA database for Uyghurs. However, the Thermo Fisher Scientific move did not go far enough, according to critics.
Rubio said “All evidence is that they continue to provide these products which enabled these human rights abuses,” when discussing Thermo Fisher Scientific. The Senator highlighted that he had repeatedly written about the matter to the Massachusetts-based company.
An Amazon spokesperson said “Whenever we receive proof of forced labour, we take action and suspend privileges to sell.“
Coca-Cola representatives declined to comment on the matter. Similarly, questions by Reuters’ received no immediate response from the other companies mentioned.
Passing a new legislation
Concerns about forced labour have made politicians introduce a legislation that would ban imports of goods made in Xinjiang. Consequently, US lawmakers are seeking to pass this legislation as soon as possible.
There are allegations that Xinjiang authorities started using forced labour since 2016. This is according to rights groups, researchers, former residents and some western lawmakers. There are around a million Uyghurs detainees in a network of forced labour camps along with other primarily Muslim minorities.
China’s policies toward Uyghurs are described as genocide by the United States government. Similarly, the sentiment is shared by parliaments in countries, among them Britain and Canada. China says the camps are for vocational training and to counter religious extremism, while denying abuse.
Extreme repression and surveillance
Sophie Richardson is China director for the organization, Human Rights Watch. This non-governmental organization investigates and reports human abuse happening anywhere in the world. Richardson told the Senate panel that Beijing’s “extreme repression and surveillance” made human rights due diligence for companies impossible.
She said “Inspectors cannot visit facilities unannounced or speak to workers without fear of reprisal. Some companies seem unwilling or unable to ascertain precise information about their own supply chains.”
11th June 2021 23:00
This article brought to you by Legacy Times 传城时代