Washington says it will ban all cotton and tomato products from western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region over allegations they are made with forced labour from jailed Uighur Muslims.

The US action is the latest, and most sweeping, attempt to pressure China to end the campaign.
The US action is the latest, and most sweeping, attempt to pressure China to end the campaign. (Reuters)

The United States has said it will impose a region-wide ban on all cotton and tomato products from China's western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region over allegations that they are made with forced labour from detained Uighur Muslims.

US Customs and Border Protection announced on Wednesday its most sweeping action yet to pressure the Communist Party to stop a campaign against ethnic minorities.

The move, another step by the Trump administration in its final days to impose stiff economic penalties on China, applies to raw fibres, apparel, and textiles made from Uighur-grown cotton, as well as tomato-based food products and seeds from the region.

The ban, knows as a withhold release order, also applies to products processed or manufactured in third countries, CBP officials told a news briefing.

China denies allegations of rights abuses and forced labour in the region, saying it aims only to raise incomes among minorities and stamp out radicalism.

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Global cotton supplier

The region is a major global supplier of cotton, so the order could have significant effects on global commerce. 

The Trump administration has already blocked imports from individual companies linked to alleged forced labour in the region.

Some manufacturers have criticised the use of a region-wide order, arguing it can be hard to ensure tainted raw materials do not enter the supply chain. 

That is especially true with Chinese cotton that is used to make clothing for export in other countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Customs and Border Protection has in the past targeted entire product lines and regions with import bans, including issuing an order against cotton from Turkmenistan in 2018 and gold from artisanal mines in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019.

READ MORE: Is China losing its pull with Europe?

Most sweeping pressure campaign

Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich territory, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in internment camps.

The US action is the latest, and most sweeping, attempt to pressure China to end the campaign. 

Canada and the British government both recently said they too would take steps to stop goods tainted by forced labor from entering their countries.

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Source: AP