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U.S. warns firms of human rights abuse risks in China's Xinjiang province

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday issued an advisory warning U.S. companies about the risks faced from maintaining supply chains associated with human rights abuses in China’s western Xinjiang province.

The advisory, issued by the U.S. State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security departments, seeks to add more U.S. pressure on China at a time of heightened tensions over China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

The advisory said companies doing business in Xinjiang or with entities using Xinjiang labor face “reputational, economic, and legal risks” from human rights abuses, including forced labor, mass detention and forced sterilization.

“CEOs should read this notice closely and be aware of the reputational, economic and legal risks of supporting such assaults on human dignity,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers earlier on Wednesday detained a shipment originating in Xinjiang of hair products and accessories suspected of being forced labor products made with human hair, the agency said in a statement.

The products, part of a shipment of almost 13 tons of hair products worth over $800,000, indicated potential human rights abuses of forced child labor and imprisonment, the statement said.

“The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains,” Brenda Smith, a senior Customs and Border Protection official, said in the statement.

The U.S. Commerce Department last month added seven companies and two institutions to an economic blacklist for being “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs” and others.

China’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Chen Xu, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that Beijing categorically rejects what he called “groundless accusations against China on the Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues” made by some countries due to political motives.

Reporting by David Lawder, Daphne Psaledakis and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Richard Chang and Tom Brown

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