Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China

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The Trump administration on Wednesday announced it would be halting imports of cotton and tomatoes from China’s Uighur region as it ramps up pressure on Beijing for its campaign against the ethnic minority group.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be blocking products suspected of being produced through the use of forced labor, administration officials said, according to The Associated Press. These include cotton and tomatoes from the Xinjiang region.

More than 1 million members of the Muslim Uighur group have been detained by the Chinese government in what the government has called a deradicalization effort. However, the AP reported in July that Uighur detainees have been subject to forced sterilizations and abortions.

“The ultimate goal is that China abandons these horrific practices,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters.

Xinjiang is a major producer of cotton for the world, the AP notes, meaning this ban could have a significant impact on the world market. The Trump administration has previously blocked imports from companies believed to be linked to forced labor of Uighurs and has also sanctioned Communist Party officials believed to be involved.

Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), told the AP that this move would not only put pressure on China, but also on clothing brands that use products produced in Xinjiang.

“Any global apparel brand that is not either out of Xinjiang already, or plotting a very swift exit, is courting legal and reputational disaster,” Nova said. “The days when any major apparel brand can safely profit from Xinjiang cotton are over.”

WRC estimates that this move will affect up to 20 percent of the global cotton supply.

President-elect Joe Biden has condemned the detainment of Uighurs, with his presidential campaign referring to it as a “genocide.” Biden’s inaugural committee on Tuesday refunded a $500 donation from former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) over her registration as a foreign agent with a firm alleged to have aided the Chinese government’s surveillance of the Uighur ethnic minority.

Tags Barbara Boxer Communist Party of China Cotton Customs and Border Protection Islam in China Joe Biden Uyghurs Worker Rights Consortium

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