A recent report has claimed that companies might still be importing products made using forced labor, even if they have evaded partners from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (or XUAR).
XUAR is notorious for its sprawling arrays of detention camps and controversy over Uyghur treatment, including forced labor.
On June 30, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) released a report warning that China has been pushing mainland enterprises to move their production to Xinjiang. It is known as the Xinjiang Pairing Assistance Program.
At present, U.S. legislation and international companies have only paid attention to products directly from XUAR when it comes to forced labor.
But because of Beijing’s initiative, even those from other parts of China could be problematic as well.
The report stated that Chinese companies could mask the background of their products through conglomerate subsidiaries. It can also be less detectable if the firms use less direct links like investments by key individuals.
The report cited two international firms, Tesco and Esprit, which it believed might be unaware that their supply chain is infiltrated with the use of forced labor. Tesco is a British grocery and general merchandise chain, whereas Esprit is a Hong Kong- and Germany-based clothing manufacturer.
Study author Nicole Morgret told VOA News that the two companies source products from Xinxiang Chemical Fibre. It is a major chemical fiber producer and a state-owned conglomerate based in a city of Henan province.
Although Xinxiang Chemical Fibre is not headquartered in Xinjiang, it has two subsidiaries based in the Uyghur region. According to Morgret, that profile suggested this Chinese firm might be relying on forced labor in its manufacturing process.
Morgret, who is also a human security analyst at C4ADS, urged companies to enhance their due diligence practices to better assess the domestic Chinese corporate networks. Tracing these corporate links requires more thorough effort because they are deliberately veiled.
Morgret also urged Washington to cover up the loopholes in its attempts to denounce forced labor in Xinjiang. In order to more effectively detect products of troublesome origin, she said the U.S. should develop better methods to map complex supply chains.