American corporate giants Amazon, Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have come under fire at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting for continuing to do business with China despite the communist country’s forced labour practices.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on China's human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said many U.S. companies were "profiting" from the Chinese government's human rights abuses, according to a Reuters report.
"For far too long companies like Nike, Apple, Amazon and Coca-Cola were using forced labour. They were benefiting from forced labour or sourcing from suppliers that were suspected of using forced labour," Rubio said. "These companies, sadly, were making all of us complicit in these crimes."
Senator Ed Markey, who led the hearing with fellow Democrat Tim Kaine, said a number of U.S. technology companies had profited from the Chinese government's "authoritarian surveillance industry," and that many of their products "are being used in Xinjiang right now."
Thermo Fisher Scientific said in 2019 it would stop selling genetic sequencing equipment into Xinjiang after rights groups and media documented how authorities there were building a DNA database for Uyghurs. But critics say the move didn't go far enough.
"All evidence is that they continue to provide these products which enabled these human rights abuses," Rubio said of Thermo Fisher, noting that he had written the Massachusetts-based company repeatedly about the matter.
U.S. Senators want to enact a law that bans imports of goods made in Xinjiang because forced labour is being used to produce these goods.
Xinjiang authorities allegedly detained Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in large numbers at special camps since 2016 and are forcing them to work at these factories. There have been allegations of human rights abuses and even genocide levelled against China against these minorities.
China, on its part, denies abuses, saying the camps are meant for vocational training of backward communities and to counter religious extremism.
Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, told the Senate committee that due to the communist country’s extreme repression and surveillance it was not possible for companies to carry out due diligence for human rights.