UHRP hails action to end import of cotton products from Chinese paramilitary conglomerate in the Uyghur Region

Five Things to Know About

Uyghur Human Rights Project
December 2, 2020 5:19 PM EST
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project welcomes the Withhold Release Order (WRO) issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on cotton and cotton products produced by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), the single biggest contributor to Uyghur forced labour in East Turkistan today.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today that U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the WRO that applies to all cotton and cotton products produced by the XPCC and its subordinate and affiliated entities “based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor.”

“Sanctions on the XPCC should be global. International companies are now on notice: if you import any goods produced by the XPCC, you are complicit in human rights crimes,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “The United States will now hold companies to account if they try to import goods connected with the XPCC.”

“Uyghurs have long suffered under massive human rights violations by the XPCC. Today’s action is a good start. It’s time for every country to end business as usual with the XPCC,” Kanat continued.

The WRO follows a decision on July 31, 2020, by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), to sanction the XPCC as well as two XPCC officials, Peng Jiarui and Sun Jinlong, under the Global Magnitsky Act.

The Commerce department also banned exports to the XPCC, along with 27 other entities, in October 2019 after determining that they were “implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the XUAR.”

The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), also known as the Bingtuan, or “military unit” in Chinese, is a paramilitary force made up of 14 Divisions. It commands a population of 2.7 million over an area of 80,000 square km of East Turkistan, around 12% of the region’s total population. It is sometimes referred to as a “state within a state.”

The Bingtuan, among other activities, is the single largest producer of cotton in the Uyghur Region and utilizes forced labor throughout the textile supply chain from irrigation all the way to finished products. For global companies, it is practically impossible to be involved in any kind of agricultural or industrial activities in the Uyghur Region without engaging in some way with the Bingtuan, and therefore with forced labor.

The Bingtuan constitutes a multibillion-dollar state-owned business. Bingtuan-controlled interests make up around 20% of the regional economy. Over 850,000 companies in 147 countries, including the United States, Germany, and the U.K. are part of the Bingtuan’s international business operations.

Read more:

UHRP Explainer: Five Things to Know About the Bingtuan

UHRP Report: The Bingtuan: China’s Paramilitary Colonizing Force in East Turkestan