Chinese health equipment producers are using a government labor program that forces Uyghur minorities to work against their will, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
At least 17 companies participate in the labor program, which transports the Muslim minorities to factory and service jobs, the Times found. Though the participating firms mostly produce products for domestic consumption, a shipment of personal protective equipment produced by one of the firms was found in the state of Georgia.
A Chinese spokesperson asserted the program helps "local residents rise above poverty through employment and lead fulfilling lives."
While China is a large exporter of equipment for combating the coronavirus pandemic, many Chinese health products have caused more harm than good. Beijing sent thousands of ineffective test kits to Europe, while providing aid in Latin America and Africa to gain political and economic leverage.
Chinese human-rights abuses—particularly toward Uyghur Muslims—have been in the spotlight in recent months. At least one million Uyghurs are detained in labor camps where forced sterilization and mandatory denouncement of Islam are frequent. Last week, the PRC sanctioned Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R., Tex.), along with two other American officials, for their previous comments on human-rights abuses in western China.
"The Chinese Government and Communist Party's systematic, ongoing efforts to wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is horrific and will be a stain on humanity should we refuse to act," Rubio said in May.
Following the lead of Republicans on the Hill, the State Department has made religious liberty a key priority of American foreign policy.
Deeming the Chinese genocide of Uyghurs "the stain of the century," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocated for a foreign policy connected to America's founding and first principles in a speech last Thursday. "No nation is better equipped. We have the most abundant resources, the most principled diplomats, and the most conviction to defend human rights of any nation in the world," he said.