US senators seek answers from firm on reported forced Uyghur labor

'We believe these conditions bear obvious signs of forced labor,' senators write to Universal Electronics Inc.

US senators seek answers from firm on reported forced Uyghur labor

A bipartisan trio of US senators sought answers Wednesday from American electronics firm Universal Electronics Inc. in the wake of a damning report that implicated it in China's "genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang."

Democratic Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez was joined by committee members Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, in the letter, which seeks answers from Chief Executive Officer Paul Arling following a Reuters report that alleged the company struck a deal with Beijing to transport Uyghur laborers from Xinjiang to Qinzhou.

"This arrangement bears clear signs of forced labor, raising concerns that your firm may be directly implicated in the Chinese government’s genocide in Xinjiang," the senators wrote, further citing a number of documented abuses against Uyghurs by China's ruling party.

"Given these ongoing, well-documented abuses, American companies must scrupulously avoid forced Uyghur labor in their Chinese operations, including by carefully vetting arrangements with third-party labor agents. The new reports indicate Universal Electronics may be failing in this duty," they added.

The report alleged that Uyghurs who were transported to the facility in Qinzhou in southern China live in segregated dormitories, are subject to constant police surveillance and are subject to the Chinese government's "education activities."

"We believe these conditions bear obvious signs of forced labor. We are especially troubled that Universal Electronics appears to have done little to investigate or remedy the situation," the senators wrote.

According to UN data, at least 1 million Uyghurs are held against their will in places Beijing calls "vocational training centers," which the international community defines as "re-education camps."

China does not provide information on how many camps are in Xinjiang, the number of people held or how many have returned to social life.

While the UN and other international organizations reiterated demands that the camps be opened for inspection, China has allowed a few designated centers to be partially viewed by a small number of foreign diplomats and journalists.

Several countries have accused China of ethnically cleansing Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as "lies and (a) political virus."