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The United States will begin blocking imports of laptops from Chinese manufacturers accused of having forced labor in Chinese internment camps to manufacture their products.
On Monday, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it would begin confiscating imports from Hefei Bitland, a laptop and smartphone maker that once counted Lenovo and Google as customers.
According to federal officials, Hefei Bitland is one of the Chinese manufacturers using “state-led forced labor” in concentration camps specializing in the persecution of Chinese Uighur Muslim minorities. Human rights groups and journalists estimate that as many as one million Uighurs have been detained in detention programs focused on “re-education” and the use of prisoners as a source of low-cost labor.
“While the Trump administration harms American companies that respect human rights and the rule of law, foreign companies neglect to impose forced labor on vulnerable workers and do not allow them.”
According to The Intercept, the news came when Lenovo recently imported 258,000 laptops from Hefei Bitland.
Google and Lenovo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on CBP’s actions. However, according to the Associated Press, Lenovo told customs officials in July that it was not manufacturing products at the Hefei Bitland manufacturing site. This was after the US Department of Commerce admitted to Bitland that it had participated in forced labor activities. As a result, US companies are prohibited from exporting technology to manufacturers without government approval.
According to the Hefei Byland website, Chinese companies have partnered with HP in addition to Foxconn, the world’s largest contract supplier of electronics. However, HP told PCMag that Hefei Bitland Information Technology is not a direct supplier.
“We have strong policies in place to protect human rights and ban the use of involuntary labor of all kinds throughout the supply chain,” HP said. “We promise to ensure that everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect.”
In addition to imports from Hefei Bitland, CBP will also block imports of hair products, processed cotton and clothing from three other Chinese manufacturers. It wasn’t entirely clear how federal officials would link companies to forced labor, but government agencies say they rely on “various sources, including the general public.”
Australian think tanks estimate that at least 82 well-known brands benefit directly or indirectly from the use of Uighur workers as forced laborers.
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