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

Universal-Electronics-Statement

October 8, 2021, 5:05 p.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is alarmed by reporting that a publicly traded American company, Universal Electronics Inc. (NASDAQ:UEIC), has been directly implicated in forced Uyghur labor. UHRP calls for an investigation of potential violations of U.S. law, and calls on shareholders to drop the company’s stock.

“It is outrageous that an American company is knowingly benefiting from the forced labor of Uyghurs,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat. “Universal Electronics is complicit by its own admission. Shareholders should stay away.”

UHRP calls on the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate whether the company’s products have been imported to the U.S. in violation of the Tariff Act of 1930, which bans the import of forced-labor goods. Any violations should trigger stiff penalties.

In addition, UHRP calls on portfolio managers to purge Universal Electronics shares from their funds, and calls on individual investors to divest from Universal Electronics shares without delay. By the company’s own admission, its operations are profiting from the forced labor of Uyghurs. 

Reporting from Reuters shows that the company, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, dealt with Chinese government officials in arranging the forced transport of at least 400 Uyghurs from their homes to the eastern city of Qinzhou, where 365 are currently performing factory work under police guard.

Details in the reporting show that the workers were escorted by police on charter flights to Qinzhou and are under police surveillance while at the factory and in their segregated dormitories. Uyghur workers are also required to attend “education activities” run by Qinzhou police and judicial authorities, which typically refers to political indoctrination classes. Chinese workers are not subjected to the same treatment.

The Chinese government covers up state-imposed forced labor crimes under the banner of “poverty alleviation” and “labor transfer” schemes. It has forcibly relocated thousands of Uyghurs since 2017. The uprooted individuals face detention and torture if they  refuse cooperation with the government.

Universal Electronics Inc., which manufactures remote-control and home security products, has sold its equipment and software to Sony, Samsung, LG, and Microsoft, potentially implicating them and others in forced labor. 

The U.S. Government warned companies in July that there is a “high risk of violating U.S. law” for any company with operations, investment, the July 13 Supply Chain Business Advisory for the Uyghur Region, jointly issued by six cabinet Departments, explicitly advises business that “There are credible reports indicating that labor transfers of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to other regions and provinces of China are part of a state-sponsored coercive relocation and forced labor program aiming to force assimilation and reduce their population density.”

Read more:

Coalition Statement on State Department’s updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory, July 13, 2021

Civil society groups welcome action by UN human rights experts to address forced labour in Uyghur region, March 30, 2021

Human rights, labour and investor organisations restate call for a Regional WRO, and press for transparency and robust enforcement, September 16, 2020

180+ Orgs Demand Apparel Brands End Complicity in Uyghur Forced Labour, July 23, 2020