15 Jan 2021
Companies trading in Britain will face hefty fines and be barred from public sector procurement unless they can prove their supply chains are free from forced labour under new measures intended to pressure Beijing over human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, laid out measures to prevent British businesses participating in supply chains involving the use of slave labour by imprisoned Uighur Muslims in the western Chinese province.
Beijing is accused of abuses against Xinjiang’s indigenous Uighur population, including forced sterilisation, torture and mass internment, which some Conservatives say amounts to genocide. Rights groups warn that cotton picked by enslaved Uighurs and PPE made in Xinjiang factories may already have reached consumers in Britain.
Last month the BBC looked into how many of the UK’s 30 biggest fashion brands had a policy of not using raw cotton from Xinjiang. Marks & Spencer, Next, Burberry and Tesco were cited as some examples of those who did have such a policy.
In November H&M, Boohoo and Nike told MPs that they had banned any cotton products originating from Xinjiang. Some brands have been unable to confirm whether Xinjiang cotton has entered their supply chains.
They argue that it is difficult to fully trace the origin of cotton but that they are doing their best to improve traceability. More than 80 per cent of China’s cotton comes from Xinjiang. Mr Raab said that Britain had a “moral duty to respond” to abuses “on an industrial scale”.
By Catherine Philp, The Times, 13 January 2021
Read more at The Times
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