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Western Powers Rebuke Beijing Over Xinjiang ‘Abuses’ by Urging Olympics Boycott

The Biden administration added Friday another 14 Chinese entities to its economic sanctions list for enabling what it described as Bejing’s campaign of repression, mass detention and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The companies include the China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology; Xinjiang Lianhai Chuangzhi Information Technology Co; Shenzhen Cobber Information Technology Co; Xinjiang Sailing Information Technology; Beijing Geling Shentong Information Technology; Shenzhen Hua’antai Intelligent Technology Co.; and Chengdu Xiwu Security System Alliance Co. They’ll have to seek a special license—and receive additional scrutiny—if they wish to purchase U.S. technology, though experts say approval is unlikely at this point.

“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human-rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use U.S. technology to fuel China’s destabilizing military modernization efforts,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

China, which dismisses allegations of forced labor and other human-rights abuses in Xinjiang, says its policies are necessary to fight terrorism and alleviate poverty. It objected to the Commerce Department’s decision, which it said is being used to “destabilize Xinjiang and contain China.”

“China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and foil U.S. attempts to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing on Friday.

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Still, there are other signs the West’s patience with the Chinese Communist Party is wearing thin.

EU boycotts Beijing Olympics

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed on Friday a resolution calling on diplomatic officials to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a sign of escalating tensions between the European Union and China over Beijing’s “repressive measures” in territories such as Hong Kong.

“While in Hong Kong the freedoms constitutionally promised for many years are systematically eliminated by Beijing, the European Parliament demonstrates the united support for human rights as the core tenet of European foreign policy,” Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s China delegation, said in a statement. “It is clear that many EU member states and also the European Commission are reluctant to speak out against China’s repressive measures in Hong Kong. It is therefore all the more important that the European Parliament stays firm in its solidarity with the citizens of Hong Kong and their fight for democracy and freedom.”

The 28-point non-binding resolution asked EU officials and member states to decline all government and diplomatic invitations to the Beijing Games “unless the Chinese government demonstrates a verifiable improvement in the human-rights situation in Hong Kong, the Xinjiang Uyghur region, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and elsewhere in China.”

The Chinese foreign ministry’s commissioner’s office in Hong Kong immediately hit back at the vote, deriding it as “political grandstanding and a stumbling block to mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the EU.”

UK could ban Xinjiang cotton

In another rebuke of Beijing’s policies, Britain’s foreign affairs committee published a report Thursday asking the government to dial up the pressure on the Chinese Communist Party and force it to end its persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities.

“The evidence of severe human-rights abuses and crimes against the Uyghur people is already overwhelming and indisputable, and Parliament has called it genocide,” Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee, said in a statement. “This report moves the conversation forward, away from the question of whether crimes are taking place and on to what the U.K. should do to end them.”

The recommendations include exploring a ban on the import of all cotton products known to be produced in whole or in part in Xinjiang, boycotting the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games, discouraging British businesses from sponsoring or advertising in the Olympics and forbidding companies that provide surveillance equipment to the detention camps, such as Hikvision, from operating in the United Kingdom.

The report also urges the government to implement an asylum “fast track” for Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities who are fleeing persecution in China, as well as supply funding for the preservation and promotion of both tangible and intangible Uyghur cultural heritage, which it says is facing widespread destruction. In addition, the government should “urgently” raise a complaint against China to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, explore the prospect of a Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and engage with the International Criminal Court about the feasibility of an investigation into crimes committed against the Uyghurs.

“No country is so powerful that it should be able to perpetrate atrocities with impunity,” Tugendhat said. “The U.K. can choose to act and use the mechanisms and levers built into the UN, and other institutions, to hold the Chinese Communist Party to account. As the Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary, it’s worth remembering that China has been a great civilization for more than five thousand years. These crimes against the Uyghur people stand out as a black moment in a golden history.”

Factory sues Zenz

Meanwhile, the backlash against the backlash is getting stronger. Following the lead of Esquel Group, which filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for blacklisting it over suspected forced labor, Eagle Textile, a garment factory in Yarkant County in Xinjiang, is suing prominent Xinjiang researcher Adrian Zenz for the collapse of its bottom line.

“It’s all caused by the irresponsible and false accusations made by Adrian Zenz, who said that the company is involved in ‘forced labor’ in one of his reports,” company chairman Hong Longzhu told China Daily Friday. “That’s why I decided to sue him for damaging the company’s reputation and causing serious economic losses. I want him to apologize and compensate the company for the losses because his actions have directly harmed my personal interests.”

At its peak, Eagle Textile provided jobs for 900 people, Hong said. Now, its staff numbers just 300. “The workers don’t want to leave, but as a private business I have no choice because there aren’t enough orders,” he said.

Zenz used Eagle Textile as an example of “involuntary labor assignments” in a paper in the Journal of Political Risk in 2019. In the case study, Zenz described the company’s “semi-military” management, which ensures the “normal operation of the production line.” More than 400 Uyghurs, more than half from impoverished backgrounds, worked in the factory at the time the article was researched. Their days were plied with Chinese songs “carefully selected” by Hong, “morning exercises” and “spontaneous gather[ings] to learn Chinese,” Zenz wrote.

“This indicates a high degree of control and mandatory structure over their personal lives,” he concluded.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Kashgar prefecture accepted the company’s case on April 2, China Daily said. Hong is seeking an apology from Zenz and compensation of roughly 5 million yuan ($771,735). Zenz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.