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Banned Chinese Companies Deny Allegations They Abused Uighurs

WASHINGTON — Several Chinese firms and the major international brands they supply pushed back against the Trump administration’s decision to add 11 Chinese companies to a government blacklist for aiding human rights violations, saying they had found no evidence of forced labor or other abuses in their supply chains.

On Monday, the Trump administration added the Chinese companies to the so-called entity list, which bars them from buying American technology and products without a special license. Nine companies were added to the list for their use of forced labor, while another two were included for conducting genetic analyses that were used to further the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, the Commerce Department said.

The Chinese government has carried out a campaign of mass detentions in Xinjiang, placing one million or more members of Muslim and other minority groups into large internment camps intended to increase their loyalty to the Communist Party. Some of these detainees are forced to work in factories in or near their camps.

The list of companies sanctioned on Monday included current and former suppliers to major international brands such as Apple, Ralph Lauren, Google, HP, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and Muji, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank established by the Australian government. The group cited the websites of the sanctioned Chinese companies, which mentioned their financial relationships with major American brands.

In a statement, Apple said that it had immediately begun a detailed investigation of Nanchang O-Film Tech, one of its suppliers that appeared on the list, when it learned of the allegations earlier this year. Apple dispatched independent third-party investigators to O-Film’s facilities in March, and then conducted surprise audits in June and July, including verifying employee documentation and interviewing with workers in local languages, it said.

“Apple is dedicated to ensuring everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect,” Josh Rosenstock, an Apple spokesman, said in a statement. “We have found no evidence of any forced labor on Apple production lines and we plan to continue monitoring.”

Another company included on the list, Changji Esquel Textile Company Ltd., appeared to have extensive connections with major international clothing brands, including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.

In a statement, Hugo Boss said that it maintained “a close and longstanding business relationship with the Esquel Group,” Changji Esquel’s parent company. Hugo Boss said it prohibited the use of forced labor in its supply chains, and that it had raised the allegations with Esquel Group. Esquel had assured it that all of the company’s requirements and standards had been met.

“We at Hugo Boss take these allegations very seriously and will continue to further pursue the matter,” the company said.

In a statement Monday, Esquel denied the accusations, saying that it did not and would never use forced labor, and that no one from the Commerce Department had spoken with the company to investigate the claims.

Another Chinese company, BGI Group, which had two subsidiaries placed on the list for providing gene technology for the surveillance of Uighurs, said it was “puzzled by” its inclusion.

BGI Group said that one subsidiary, Xinjiang Silk Road BGI, was established in November 2016 and had not carried out actual business so far. The other entity, Beijing Liuhe BGI, provides commercial gene synthesis for scientists conducting basic research, and it’s unclear “how its services or products could be used with respect to the allegations made,” the company said.

“BGI Group does not condone and would never be involved in any human-rights abuses,” it said in a statement.

Sapna Maheshwari contributed reporting.


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