World News

US seizes ‘forced labour’ Chinese hair imports

The US has seized a shipment of human hair products from China, that it says was made by forced labour from children or prisoners.

The products came from Xinjiang in the far west of China – where it’s thought a million Muslims have been detained in “re-education” camps.

“Production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation,” said US customs official Brenda Smith.

China said the “forced labour” accusation was false and malicious.

The US did not say whether the hair itself came from children or prisoners – merely that the products were made by them.

What was seized?

The products were detained by the US Customs and Border Protection at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The goods came from a company in Xinjiang, which, the agency said, indicated “potential human right abuses of forced child labour and imprisonment”.

The products were part of 13-ton shipment of hair products worth more than $800,000 dollars.

Last month, the agency issued a “detention order” for all products from the Lop County Meixin Hair Product Company in Xinjiang.

A long-standing US law bans the importation of any products made by “convict labour” overseas.

“The detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message…that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in US supply chains,” said Ms Smith.

The US embassy in China told Reuters: “The lawful labour rights and interests of the Chinese citizens of all ethnic groups, including those in Xinjiang, are protected by law.”

What else is the US doing about Xinjiang?

In October last year, the US imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of…Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang”.

The Department of Commerce has warned Americans against doing business with 37 companies in Xinjiang, that it suspects of “forced labour and other human rights abuses”.

And last month, President Trump signed the “Uyghur Human Rights Act” into law, which allows for sanctions and increases US agencies’ reporting on Xinjiang.

But Mr Trump recently said he held off on stronger sanctions because “we were in the middle of a major trade deal” with China.

“When you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on… we’ve done a lot,” Mr Trump told Axios.

What is the situation in Xinjiang?

China says the detention camps are to counter extremism – but the US, and others, believe more than a million people, almost all Muslims, have been detained without trial.

Last year, the BBC saw leaked documents that showed 15,000 people from southern Xinjiang were sent to the camps in one week alone.

The same documents showed inmates can be released only when they “understand deeply the illegal, criminal and dangerous nature of their past activity”.

Ben Emmerson QC, a human rights lawyer and adviser to the World Uighur Congress, said the camps were “a mass brainwashing scheme”.

“It’s a total transformation that is designed specifically to wipe the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang as a separate cultural group off the face of the Earth,” he said.

A year ago, the BBC found that China was separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language.

In one township alone, more than 400 children lost both parents to internment – either the “re-education” camps or prison.

And earlier this week, a report by a scholar of China said women were being sterilised or fitted with contraceptive devices to limit the Muslim population.

More about the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang:

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Birmingham school forced to close after 'child tests positive for coronavirus'

A school in Birmingham has been forced to close after a child tested positive for coronavirus, revealed an email sent to staff.

Paganel Primary School, in Selly Oak, closed temporarily on Tuesday following the positive test result of a Year 1 pupil last Thursday, the leaked internal email said.

A staff member is also awaiting test results amid concerns they may have been infected. It is not believed parents have been told of the positive Covid-19 result nor suspected case, reports Birmingham Live.

The school said in the email that it would likely remain closed until the end of this week, while a ‘year one bubble’ will not be allowed back in until July 9 in order to allow pupils to isolate for two weeks.

In the email, Headteacher Mrs Bethan Gingell, wrote: ‘By now you will have all received the group call that the school will be closed until further notice.

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‘This decision has been made following information that a year one child has tested positively for Covid-19 and a staff member has a suspected case of Covid-19.

‘The Chair of Governors and myself have made the decision to close the school to everyone until we have the test result from the staff member. This as the letter states is a precaution to protect us all.

‘As soon as we have the test result I will be in touch. it is highly likely that school will remain closed this week. The year 1 bubble will remain closed until the 9th July.’

In a subsequent email, from the deputy head Vicki Shuter, the school said it was working alongside Public Health England to manage the situation. has contacted the school, Birmingham City Council and Public Health England for comment.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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Pompeo calls report of forced sterilisation of Uighurs 'shocking'

Report called strongest evidence yet that China’s policies in Xinjiang met one of the genocide criteria of the UN.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday labelled as “shocking and disturbing” reports that China’s ruling Communist Party is using forced sterilisation, forced abortion and coercive family planning against minority Muslims.

Pompeo highlighted a report about the situation in China’s Xinjiang region by German researcher Adrian Zenz published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation think-tank.

Pompeo, a persistent critic of China, including its treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, said in a statement that the findings were consistent with decades of Chinese Communist Party practices “that demonstrate an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and basic human dignity”.

“We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices and ask all nations to join the United States in demanding an end to these dehumanizing abuses.”

In his report, Zenz said his findings represented the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang met one of the genocide criteria cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, namely “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”.

Zenz said analysis of Chinese government documents showed natural population growth in Xinjiang had fallen “dramatically”. He said that, in its two largest Uighur Muslim prefectures, growth rates fell by 84 percent between 2015 and 2018 and further in 2019.

The Chinese embassy in Washington referred to a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, saying that “some institutions are bent on cooking up disinformation on Xinjiang-related issues … Their allegations are simply groundless and false.”

Documents from 2019 revealed plans for a campaign of mass female sterilisation targeting 14 percent and 34 percent of all married women of childbearing age in two Uighur counties, Zenz wrote. The campaign, he said, likely aimed to sterilise rural minority women with three or more children, as well as some with two children – equivalent to at least 20 percent of all women of childbearing age.

“Budget figures indicate that this project had sufficient funding for performing hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation sterilization procedures in 2019 and 2020,” he wrote.

Zenz said that, by 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age in its four southern minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries – placement of intrauterine devices or sterilisations.

He said in 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang, while only 1.8 percent of the population lives there.

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