One of the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this year is to add more companies to a sanctions list for using forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, a senior DHS official said on Friday.
Robert Silvers, DHS undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans, said another priority this year was to work to persuade like-minded countries in Europe, as well as Japan, Australia, India and others, to pursue enforcement regimes similar to those of the United States.
The department was assigned by the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to create a sanctions list for companies known to traffic in forced labor.
“One of our highest priorities for 2023 is to add additional entities to that list,” Silvers told an event at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
“We are very aware based on credible reporting from the NGO and other communities that there’s a significant number of companies that are operating in Xinjiang or around Xinjiang that are engaging in these abhorrent practices, and we want to name them, and we want to ensure that their goods do not come into this country,” he said.
Beijing denies any abuses and rejects allegations by rights groups and governments of forced labor and internment of Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority of around 10 million people in the western region of Xinjiang. The United States has accused China of genocide in Xinjiang.
“We’ve seen darkness in Xinjiang province. We continue to see darkness,” Silvers said, adding that DHS was in a position to step up the pace of imposition of sanctions.
It is also possible to remove companies from the entities list if they prove they have “cleaned up” their act, Silvers said. DHS is very interested in using technology, such as DNA testing, to determine whether cotton products came from Xinjiang, he said.