U.S. Warns Businesses Over Supply Chains Tied to Rights Violations in China -- Update
By William Mauldin
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. warned companies that have suppliers or
customers in China of legal and reputational risks linked to
human-rights violations there, part of the Trump administration's
broader effort to limit business ties with the country.
Companies face peril for involvement with entities blamed for
human-rights abuses, including forced labor or the mass detention
of Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region, according to a
19-page memo released Wednesday from the Commerce, Treasury,
Homeland Security, and State departments.
The memo repeatedly cited technology companies whose products
can be used for the surveillance of Uighurs.
"CEOs should read this notice closely and be aware of the
reputation, economic and legal risks of supporting such assaults on
human dignity," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington urged the U.S.
to "respect facts, drop biases, stop wrongful words and deeds that
harm others and themselves and stop meddling in China's domestic
affairs with Xinjiang as a cover." Beijing says that its efforts in
northwest China are meant to counter extremist tendencies among
The Trump administration notice doesn't have legal force and
won't add new rules for businesses. Still, the coordinated warning
from four U.S. agencies is a signal that the Trump administration
will enforce the laws on the books in ways that could make many
companies think twice about doing business in China.
"It's intended to remind businesses that there are sanctions in
place, that the situation in Xinjiang is dire, and, most important,
that the U.S. government intends to enforce existing law and
regulations, meaning more aggressively than they have been in the
past," said Bill Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Besides elevating human-rights concerns on mainland China, the
U.S. Congress and the Trump administration are also pressuring
Beijing over the new national security law it applied in Hong Kong,
furthering an effort to quash dissent and reduce the island's
autonomy. Washington has also waged a trade war with China. A
"phase one" trade deal in January serves as a truce but didn't
remove tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of annual U.S.
imports from China.
President Trump has faced criticism over what is seen as his
lack of dedication to addressing human-rights issues abroad,
including China's building of detention camps for more than one
million Uighur Muslims without trial, according to estimates by
academic researchers. Former national security adviser John Bolton,
citing conversations with a U.S. interpreter and one of his
deputies, said in his recent book that Mr. Trump told Chinese
President Xi Jinping that Beijing should go ahead with building the
camps. Mr. Trump avoided pressing China over human rights for fear
of jeopardizing a trade deal, Mr. Bolton said.
The timing of Wednesday's coordinated government memo on the
sanctions is "probably related to reports of what the president
told Xi Jinping about the Uighurs and is an effort to offset some
of the political damage his alleged comments caused," Mr. Reinsch
Mr. Trump disputed Mr. Bolton's account in an interview with The
Wall Street Journal and last month signed the Uighur sanctions bill
that passed Congress with broad support.
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, one of several laws
mentioned in Wednesday's memo, directs presidents to apply
sanctions to people in China linked to certain actions against
Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Write to William Mauldin at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 01, 2020 19:24 ET (23:24 GMT)
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