Consumers, businesses to suffer from cotton ban, China says

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BEIJING (AP) – China said on Thursday that a US order to halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from its Xinjiang region over alleged human rights violations would disrupt global supply chains and harm businesses and consumers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated China’s refusal to violate the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and forced them to work on government-owned farms and in other industries.

“The so-called forced labor issue is a lie of the century made from nothing,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

The US decision violated “international trade rules and free-market principles,” while disrupting global industrial and supply chains, Zhao said. “It is detrimental to the interests of businesses and consumers in all countries, including the United States itself, which is a typical act that harms both others and one himself.”

Because Xinjiang is a major global supplier of cotton, the order could have significant effects on international trade. The Trump administration has already blocked imports of individual companies related to forced labor into the region, and the United States has imposed sanctions on Communist Party officials playing a leading role in the campaign.

China has built a vast system of detention camps where more than one million Uyghurs and others have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination, according to former detainees and groups of surveillance. They also said that forced labor was used as part of an assimilation campaign in an area whose residents are ethnically and culturally distinct from the majority Han Chinese.

Uyghur forced labor has been linked by Associated Press reports to various goods imported into the United States, including clothing and electronics such as cameras and computer monitors.

China says it aims only to promote economic and social development in the region and to eradicate religious extremism, separatism and terrorism.

Canada and Britain recently said they too would take action to prevent goods contaminated by forced labor from entering their countries.

The US ban is estimated to affect around 20% of the world’s cotton supply. Industry figures say it can be difficult to ensure that contaminated raw materials do not enter the supply chain, especially because Chinese cotton is used to make clothing for the export to other countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.

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