The Senate Finance Committee has contacted several automakers, hoping to uncover whether U.S. companies are tied to forced labor in China.
The Xinjiang region of China is occupied by a large Uyghur population, an ethnic minority who have reportedly been the victims of repression and human rights violations. The area also supplies parts for many internationally traded automakers. Earlier this month, a report was published and widely circulated within the auto-industry claiming that certain factories within the region had used forced labor to make components used in nearly every popular vehicle around the world.
Lawmakers and industry insiders were quick to criticize auto companies over their purported ties to Xinjiang, although China has denied all claims of forced labor in the area, and evidence of the alleged abuses have remained scarce. Not long after the report emerged, the United Auto Workers union demanded the industry cease conducting business in the region.
The senators of the Finance Committee asked eight automakers, including U.S. based companies Tesla, General Motors and Ford, to provide details of their operations in Xinjiang. While they will not necessarily prove any complicity, if the answers, which are due on January 13, raise suspicions the members may choose to enact a Biden Administration law which would be devastating to the auto industry. The policy, passed last year, is called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and bans the import of any goods from China associated with human rights abuses. Companies could be left stranded without a supplier for many vehicle components if this were to happen.
While the senate inquiry is indeed necessary to ensure ethics standards are followed, it remains to be seen if the government will go the extra mile of confirming the allegations. However, last year, President Biden called China’s treatment of its minority population a genocide. With such strong language from the executive branch, it does seem that an escalation is bound to occur in the coming years.
Did you enjoy this article/interview? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic by connecting with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.