D.C. Circuit Court Upholds Commerce Dept. Sanctions Against Luxury Shirt Maker With Mill in Uyghur Region

DC-Court-of-Appeals

July 20, 2022 | 3:00 p.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 819-0598, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

Ruling Upholds Government’s Right to Use Entity List to Combat Forced Labor 

Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) today said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals correctly ruled that Changji Esquel, a subsidiary of luxury shirt maker Esquel Group that runs a spinning mill in the Uyghur Region, should stay on the Commerce Department’s Entity List.

Designation on the Entity List limits companies’ access to U.S. markets and U.S. goods. Esquel argued that promoting human rights was not a valid reason for designation, but the court found the claim unlikely to succeed, preserving against challenge Changji Esquel’s sanction for engaging in the practice of forced labor.

“Esquel’s attempt to undermine the use of the Entity List for this fundamental purpose would harm the US government’s whole of government approach to combatting the egregious, state-sponsored forced labor of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people, which we point to in our brief,” said Allison Gill, Forced Labor Program Director at Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum. “Companies operating in the Uyghur Region can’t conduct credible due diligence to exclude forced labor of Uyghurs. Instead of defending the indefensible, Esquel should focus on moving its supply chain out of the region as called for Uyghur, labor, and human rights groups.

GLJ-ILRF, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Human Trafficking Legal Center submitted an amicus brief opposing Esquel’s motion for a preliminary injunction that would have enabled them to avoid sanctions while the case goes through the court system. 

In the amicus brief—and referenced in the Court’s decision—the groups emphasized egregious human rights abuses, including systematic state-sponsored forced labor of Uyghurs.

“In refusing to second-guess Changji Esquel’s designation, the court rejected the first challenge to the use of the Entity List to promote human rights and fight forced labor,” said Spencer Nelson, Staff Attorney at Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum. “The ruling puts companies on notice that profiting from forced labor endangers their access to U.S. markets, goods, and technologies.” 

For more information, see the amicus brief and the court’s opinion and The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region.

Read more:

Coalition Calls for Government Action to End Corporate Complicity in Forced Labour in Uyghur Region of China, May 10, 2022

Explosive Report Exposes Uyghur Forced Labour Connections in Global Retail Brands’ Supply Chains, Nov 17, 2021

UHRP Calls for U.S. Investigation of Universal Electronics Products Made with Uyghur Forced Labor, Oct 8, 2021

Statement on Esquel Group’s hiring practices in East Turkistan, July 22, 2020

Testimony of UHRP Board Chairman, Nury Turkel, CECC Hearing: Forced Labor, Mass Internment, and Social Control in Xinjiang, Oct 17, 2019

It is past time to stop importing Chinese cotton and apparel produced by forced labor in the Uyghur Region, Nov 7, 2019