Technology company Intel informed its suppliers to stop procuring products or labor from Xinjiang, where the Chinese Communist Party is detaining, abusing and oppressing Uyghurs — then apologized for the move on Chinese social media.
As CNN Business recorded, Intel said in a recent letter to suppliers that it “is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.” The outlet noted that the message provoked intense backlash in China (formatting adjusted):
People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, called the statement “absurd”, adding that Intel is “biting the hand that feeds it.” Chinese pop star Wang Junkai, the brand ambassador for Intel Core, announced Wednesday that he had cut all ties with Intel over its statement, saying “national interests are above all else.” On Thursday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said that “claims related to Xinjiang, such as forced labor” are “lies by US’s anti-China forces.”
The chipmaker therefore walked back its language among Chinese consumers and business partners.
“Although our original intention was to ensure compliance with US laws, this letter has caused many questions and concerns among our cherished Chinese partners, which we deeply regret,” Intel said in a statement on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
On Thursday, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the law will ban imports from Xinjiang and impose sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for forced labor in the region.
“The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more,” Sen. Rubio commented in a press release earlier this year. “We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses.”
“Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are being forced into labor, tortured, imprisoned, forcibly sterilized, and pressured to abandon their religious and cultural practices by the Chinese government,” Sen. Merkley added. “No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor.”
In June, Amnesty International released a report with new accounts detailing the abuse of Muslims in Xinjiang, calling the actions “crimes against humanity.” One woman — who was placed in an internment camp for having WhatsApp on her phone — told the group:
[Every day] you get up at 5am and have to make your bed, and it had to be perfect. Then there was a flag-raising ceremony and an “oath-taking.” Then you went to the canteen for breakfast. Then to the classroom. Then lunch. Then to the classroom. Then dinner. Then another class. Then bed. Every night two people had to be “on duty” [monitoring the other cellmates] for two hours… There was not a minute left for yourself. You are exhausted.
Inmates were continually watched and had no space to themselves. “There was insufficient food, water, exercise, healthcare, sanitary and hygienic conditions, fresh air, and exposure to natural light,” the report explained.