China on Tuesday criticised new curbs imposed by the U.S. on imports of goods produced in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing is accused of suppressing ethnic minorities.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson rejected U.S. accusations that production in its western Xinjiang region involved forced labour by Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
On Monday, the U.S. announced it would stop importing goods including cotton, computer parts and hair products made in Xinjiang, as frictions between the two countries escalate.
“The so-called forced labour problem is completely fabricated by some U.S. and Western institutions and personnel,’’ Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
Wang said ethnic minority workers’ freedom of movement “has never been restricted” and that their language, customs and religion were protected by law.
Over the past three years, hundreds of Uighurs, Kazakhs and Huis have testified about being held in internment camps as part of what observers say is a government campaign to assimilate ethnic minorities.
The Chinese government said the camps estimated to have held about 1 million people are “vocational education centres” meant to eradicate extremism and terrorism.
In December, authorities said all Xinjiang “students” have “graduated” and found gainful employment.
However, rights groups accuse Beijing of funnelling camp survivors into factories across the country.
A study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in March linked multinationals including Nike, Adidas, Apple and Microsoft to forced Uighur labour.
The report estimated over 80,000 Uighurs were transferred to work in factories across the country between 2017 and 2019. (dpa/NAN)