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A top US official has called on international companies to leave Xinjiang, citing forced labor concerns. 

Thea Lee, deputy undersecretary for International Affairs at the US Labor Department, said during a US congressional hearing that it is impractical and irresponsible for companies to operate in Xinjiang, where conducting independent human rights audits has become “essentially illegal.” Lee’s comments were directed at a session with the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, highlighting ongoing crimes against humanity claims against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region by Chinese officials.


In response to these allegations, China has denied any abuses while maintaining that facilities branded as “vocational training centers” are meant to deter terrorism and radicalism. However, major companies like the German chemical giant BASF and automotive company Volkswagen have begun reconsidering their stakes and business strategies in Xinjiang amidst international pressure and documented human rights violations.

Lee pointed out the difficulties in monitoring the labor transfer program, in which Uyghur laborers are moved from Xinjiang to other parts of China. This adds to the complexity of ensuring corporate compliance with human rights standards. She noted that data about these transfers often disappears from Chinese websites and that there is no free access to assess conditions or verify workers’ origins.

These developments come as the US government continues to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, aiming to block imports from the region to pressure China over its policies.


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