Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) slammed U.S. companies’ dependence on supply chains based in China’s Xinjiang Province on Tuesday, amid an outcry over China’s use of Uyghurs and other minority groups for forced labor.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sasse highlighted findings by the Center for Global Policy that most of the cotton exported from Xinjiang, which provides 20 percent of the world’s cotton, is picked or produced with forced labor. According to the CGP, hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities have been forced to pick cotton in Xinjiang.
“Here’s the painful truth: The global supply chains that have benefited from this blood cotton have gotten some really good cotton at really cheap prices. In 2019 an estimated 70 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton was picked by hand, making it some of the highest quality cotton in the world,” Sasse said.
“It is impossible to separate blood cotton from the small minority that is not picked in these slave fields,” the senator continued. “We are living in a sea of hypocrisy, because we have a whole bunch of U.S. companies that celebrate individuality, individualism, make some unbelievably good commercials, and talk about the expansion of human potential, at the same time being cosponsors of slave fields.”
Sasse said he had written to Nike and the Gap regarding possible sourcing of forced labor, and that he plans to contact other companies in the future. The senator called on American companies to “come clean” on their supply chain sourcing in China.
The Senate is currently considering a bill, known as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, that would ban imports of all products from Xinjiang unless U.S. Customs can verify the product was not made with forced labor. Multinational firms including Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola are reportedly lobbying to water down the legislation.
“As attention in Congress has turned towards supply chain integrity concerns in recent months, companies have begun to deploy high-paid lobbyists on Capitol Hill,” Sasse said. “Americans who believe strongly in human rights and fundamental freedoms have been justifiably confused about these efforts to weaken legislation that seeks to ban imported goods that’s made with Chinese Communist Party’s slave labor.