Multinational corporations including Nike and Coca-Cola are lobbying to water down legislation that would ban products made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
China has attempted to cement state power over millions of Muslim citizens in Xinjiang, mostly Uyghur Muslims along with Kazakhs and other minorities. The ruling Communist Party has placed Uyghurs in so-called reeducation camps that attempt to erase their attachment to Islam, and has also embarked on a campaign of forced sterilization of Uyghur women.
Numerous global supply chains are based in Xinjiang, including for cotton and coal, and China has employed forced Uyghur labor for various factories. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which passed the House 406-3 in September and is currently under consideration in the Senate, would ban imports of good from Xinjiang unless U.S. customs officials could verify that the goods were not produced using forced labor.
However, multinational companies are lobbying against the legislation, saying that while they do not support use of forced labor, the bill could have a detrimental impact on their supply chains. Along with Nike and Coca-Cola, tech giant Apple is also pushing to weaken some restrictions, the Washington Post reported last week.
Coca-Cola “strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain” and employs third-party auditors to enforce the policy, the company said in a statement to the Times. Nike said it “did not lobby against” the legislation but had “constructive discussions” with congressional aides on keeping its supply chain free of forced labor.
Pro-business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also joined the lobbying efforts.
A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in March of this year concluded that at least 80,000 Uyghurs have been sent away from their homes to labor in factories in other parts of China.