The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) submitted extensive evidence to the UK’s customs authorities and requested the suspension of cotton goods produced with forced labour in China entering the UK. The letter catalogues numerous sources demonstrating the widespread use of forced labour involving China’s Uyghur people in its cotton industry and names a number of companies who openly source cotton in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) including Muji, Uniqlo, Ikea and H&M. The human rights organisations argue that current imports involve forced labour on such a scale that they violate a number of UK laws including 19th century legislation prohibiting the importation of prison-made goods, and should be halted by the UK’s customs authorities.
Since 2017, authorities have systematically detained over one million Uyghur muslims in East Turkistan – the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – using a network of high-security ‘deextremification’ and prison camps. According to GLAN and WUC, unless the companies can produce evidence dislodging a presumption that Xinjiang cotton products have been produced in whole or in part by forced labourers, the UK authorities should suspend the importation of their products.
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