US bans imports from China-based Ninestar over Uyghurs

By Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) -The U.S. on Friday banned imports from China-based printer maker Ninestar Corp and a Chinese chemical company over alleged human rights abuses.

Ninestar, whose website says it is the world’s fourth-largest laser printer manufacturer, and Xingjang Zhongtai Chemical, are being kept out of the U.S. supply chain for participating in business practices that target China’s Uyghurs and other persecuted groups, the U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) said.

The companies could not immediately be reached for comment.

U.N. experts and rights groups estimate that over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps in China’s western Xinjiang region in recent years, with many saying they were subject to ideological training and abuse.

China has denied all accusations of abuse.

The chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China – Representative Chris Smith and Senator Jeff Merkley – said the action “is important because it offers clear guidance to American companies for supply-chain mapping” but said forced labor like “car parts, solar panels, rayon, and garments” continue to enter the U.S. market.

Senator Marco Rubio said “while today’s announcement by DHS to punish more bad actors is welcomed, it is just a drop in the bucket and must go further.”

He argued “the Biden administration’s current case-by-case approach is giving a free pass to many companies still profiting from slave labor.”

DHS said the actions were taken as part of the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA), which was signed into law in December 2021. The act prohibits imports into the U.S. that are either produced in Xinjiang or by companies identified on an UFLPA Entity List, unless the importer can prove the goods were not produced with forced labor.

Twenty-two companies are now on the list, and DHS said it has examined over $1.3 billion worth of goods likely manufactured with forced labor nearly a year after the UFLPA was implemented.

Ninestar and its eight Zhuhai-based subsidiaries, along with Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical, were added to the list for working with the government of Xinjiang to recruit, transport, transfer, harbor or receive forced labor of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, or members of other persecuted groups, out of Xinjiang, according to the posting.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; additional reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Doina Chiacu, Sharon Singleton, Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy)