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U.S. Seizes $800k Chinese Shipment of Human Hair Products on Suspicion of Human Rights Violations

A container ship prepares to depart port in Long Beach, Calif., July 16, 2018. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday seized a Chinese shipment of nearly 13 tons of wigs and other human hair products suspected of being produced by forced labor in Xinjiang.

U.S. officials at the Port of New York/Newark detained the shipment of products and accessories suspected to be made with human hair, citing “potential human right abuses of forced child labor and imprisonment.”

“The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains,” read a statement from Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade.

“It is absolutely essential that American importers ensure that the integrity of their supply chain meets the humane and ethical standards expected by the American government and by American consumers,” Smith said.

Federal law prohibits importing goods produced by forced labor.

On June 17, CBP issued a detention order for imports from Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd. in southern Xinjiang, based on “information that reasonably indicated” that the company’s products are manufactured with prison labor as well as forced labor involving excessive overtime, withholding of wages, and restriction of movement. The order requires shipments from the company to be detained at ports nationwide.

“If this highly suspicious, 13-ton shipment of human hair indeed turns out to be linked to the Uighur concentration camps, then this is a new low — even for the Chinese Communist Party — and they will have to answer to the world community for their actions,” National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told Axios.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained an estimated one million or more Uighur Muslims and other minorities in “re-education camps” around Xinjiang, which are designed to instill a sense of loyalty to the government. Around 80,000 Uighurs have been forced to work in factories, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated.

China claims that the detention camps are for voluntary education and training and are used to combat extremism, but Chinese government documents leaked last year detail how the facilities are run with extreme control over their residents.

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