US, UK denounce China's retaliation over Xinjiang

WASHINGTON • The United States has condemned what it called a "state-led" social media campaign in China against American and other international companies for deciding not to use cotton from China's Xinjiang region over forced labour concerns.

State Department spokesman Jalina Porter said the social media campaign and consumer boycotts had targeted American, European and Japanese businesses.

"We commend and stand with companies that adhere to US laws and ensure that products we are consuming are not made with forced labour," she told a regular news briefing on Friday.

China rejects allegations of abuses in Xinjiang, one of the world's leading producers of cotton, and describes the camps it has set up there as vocational training centres for Uighur Muslims that help combat religious extremism.

Beijing, which insists Xinjiang is an "internal affair", has announced sanctions - including a ban on entry into mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau - against nine British individuals and four entities, saying they had "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" over the treatment of Uighurs.

The individual sanctions announced on Friday were confined to critical legislators rather than government ministers, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain stood squarely behind them.

"The Members of Parliament and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uighur Muslims," he tweeted.

"Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them," he said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China's envoy to London would be summoned to hear "that we will not be silenced in speaking out about these human rights abuses".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 28, 2021, with the headline 'US, UK denounce China's retaliation over Xinjiang'. Subscribe