A 13-ton shipment of beauty products such as weaves suspected to have been made out of human hair was seized on Wednesday by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of New York/Newark.
According to the CPB, the shipment originated in Xinjiang, China, signaling potential human rights abuses of forced labor and imprisonment. The products were worth over $800,000.
Xinjiang is an autonomous rural region in the northwest of China and home to roughly 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority with a distinct culture and language. Until recently, there were many more Uyghurs in Xinjiang than Han Chinese, the ethnic majority that makes up the rest of the country.
The US State Department estimates that over one million Uyghurs have been detained in a massive network of internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.”
In addition to political indoctrination, former detainees have told CNN that they experienced sleep deprivation, lack of food and forced injections.
This is the second time this year that the CBP has seized products from China suspected to have been made from prisoner’s hair.
“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,” said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade.
“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.”
China has faced international scrutiny for its treatment of the Uyghurs, and in June, President Trump signed a bill into law that aimed to punish Beijing for its repression of the ethnic minority.
However, according to John Bolton’s new book “The Room Where It Happens”, Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019 that he should “go ahead with building the camps.” Per Bolton’s account, Trump thought that was “exactly the right thing to do.”