Eleven Chinese companies including a number of textile and garment-producing factories landed on the American government’s radar as bad actors flagged for human rights violations and abuses.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added the businesses to its ongoing list of entities implicated with carrying out the People’s Republic of China’s “campaign of repression.” The move restricts their dealings with American companies as a matter of national security.
It’s the latest salvo seemingly aimed at racheting up the pressure against the increasingly authoritarian power of the world’s second-largest economy—with implications for U.S. firms whose supply chains reach China’s hinterlands.
The 11 companies in question stand accused of perpetrating mass detentions, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data, and genetic analyses of Muslim minority groups from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, according to the Commerce Department.
The BIS action will result in new restrictions on access to commodities and technology that originate in the U.S. Two existing tranches of Entity List designations from October and June saw 37 other parties accused of engaging in or enabling PRC’s repressive actions in Xinjiang, the BIS said in a statement.
“Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said Monday. “This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations.”
The BIS wields the Entity List as a tool to regulate the export, re-export and in-country transfer of items that are subject to Export Administration Regulations. The list restricts the transfer of these goods to individuals, organizations and companies that are believed to be involved in activities that undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.
Items subject to Export Administration Regulations could require additional licensing for sale and movement, and the availability of most license exceptions is limited.
The entities added to the BIS list have been connected to the practice of forced labor involving Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups, and they include Changji Esquel Textile Co. Ltd., Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co. Ltd., Hefei Meiling Co. Ltd., Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. Ltd., Hetian Taida Apparel Co., Ltd., KTK Group, Nanjing Synergy Textiles Co. Ltd., Nanchang O-Film Tech and Tanyuan Technology Co. Ltd.
Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI were added to the Entity List for conducting involuntary genetic analyses on Uyghurs and other Muslims.
In October, Costco came under fire for placing an order for baby pajamas with Hetian Taida, which had been sanctioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on allegations of forced labor just weeks prior. Though the Associated Press unearthed evidence that the big-box chain placed orders with the manufacturer, Costco ultimately denied the association altogether but suspended sales on the items out of an “abundance of caution.”
Badger Sport cut ties with Hetian Taida in January of last year, soon after rumblings of the manufacturer’s alleged improper dealings surfaced.
In 2018, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) audited a facility bearing the name Hetian Taida, and did not find indicators of forced labor there.
On Monday, WRAP noted that the facility it assessed in 2018 bore the same name as the one that has faced allegations from government agencies and human rights groups, but was not located in or near a camp and was not using forced labor. “We can only speak to conditions for facilities we have inspected and cannot speculate as to conditions in facilities we’ve never even visited,” WRAP said, adding, “The Hetian Taida facility we assessed is not the entity where the alleged forced labor violations occurred.”
WRAP has not assessed the remaining 10 manufacturers on the BIS Entity List.
In March, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) issued a watershed report asserting that China’s government-facilitated mass transfers of Chinese Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities from camps in the western region of Xinjiang to factories throughout the country. One factory that allegedly benefited from the forced migration was Nanjing Synergy Textiles Co. Ltd., named in this week’s additions to the BIS Entity List.
ASPI and ICPC alleged that The North Face had sourced from the manufacturer, a charge the outdoor apparel company denied.
The BIS Entity List additions come on the heels of President Trump’s late June signing of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and other individuals involved in the human rights abuses in western Xinjiang. The legislation also puts the onus on importers to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that goods imported from the region are not the result of forced labor—a provision evolved from a March proposal, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which aimed to ban imports from a large swath of northwestern China.
At the time, a bipartisan group of legislators said they suspected leading brands and retailers, including Adidas, Calvin Klein, Esquel Group, Esprit, H&M, Nike, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger of either directly or indirectly employing forced labor.