Four labor auditing firms and a non-profit are refusing to verify supply chain information for companies manufacturing products in China’s Xinjiang province, a region where the United States and human rights organizations have accused the government of detaining minority Muslim Uighurs in internment camps and using them as forced labor.
Bureau Veritas SA of France, TUV SUD AG of Germany, Sumerra LLC of the United States, RINA SpA of Italy, as well as American nonprofit certification organization Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production have told The Wall Street Journal they will not perform labor-audit or inspector services in Xinjiang. The autonomous region is in the northwest of China which borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Some groups contacted by the Journal said there are numerous challenges to detecting forced labor, both in factories and on farms, such as lack of access and heavy police presence.
“This will not be easy, and may not be possible, but we want to leave a door open for innovative approaches,” the Journal quoted the New York-based Social Accountability International. The non-governmental organization trains auditors to see if companies meet its social compliance standard covering discrimination, forced labor and other issues.
Currently, no suppliers in Xinjiang are certified under its standard, the organization said.
The issue is a problem for companies such as Heinz and The Gap since Xinjiang is a major supplier of cotton and tomatoes, the Journal said.
China claims the camps are for vocational training and denies that it forces the Uighurs into forced labor.
Last month, the U.S. State Department reportedly was considering to label the actions of the Chinese government with respect to the Uighurs a “genocide.”
Earlier this month, a social media campaign began to encourage movie watchers to boycott the recently released Disney film “Mulan” because ending credits give acknowledgments to eight governmental entities in Xinjiang.
The film had already drawn criticism after lead actress Chinese-born American Liu Yifei expressed support for police actions against Hong Kong protesters, CNBC reported, and the film’s production designer, Grant Major, revealed that his team spent months “in and around the northwest province of Xinjiang.”