Rubio accuses U.S. companies of ignoring human rights violations in Xinjiang, causing consumers to become accomplices

Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio on Friday criticized U.S. companies such as Amazon, Apple and Nike for “turning a blind eye” to allegations of forced labor in China and causing American consumers to become “complicit” in Beijing’s oppressive policies.

Reuters reported that the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on China’s crackdown on the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, during which Rubio said many U.S. companies have not yet woken up to the fact that they are “profiting” from the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

Companies like Nike, Apple, Amazon and Coca-Cola have been using forced labor for too long,” Rubio said. They profit from forced labor or purchase from suppliers who are suspected of using forced labor. Sadly, these businesses have caused all of us to be complicit in these crimes.”

Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey, who led the hearing with Senator Kaine of the same party, noted that some U.S. technology companies profit from the Chinese government’s “authoritarian surveillance industry,” and that many of their products “are now being used in Xinjiang.

Thermo Fisher Scientific announced in 2019 that it would stop selling genetic sequencing equipment to Xinjiang after human rights groups and the media revealed how Xinjiang authorities had created a DNA database of Uighurs. But critics say such action is not enough.

Rubio said at the hearing, “All the evidence shows that they (Thermo Fisher) continue to provide these types of products that enable these human rights violations.” Rubio and has repeatedly written to the Massachusetts-based company about this.

An Amazon spokesperson responded, “Once we receive evidence of forced labor, we will take action and suspend the seller’s rights.” Coca-Cola declined to comment. Other companies named have not yet replied.

“Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, told the Senate hearing that Beijing’s “extreme repression and surveillance” make it impossible for companies to conduct human rights due diligence.

Inspectors can’t raid factories or talk to workers without fearing they will be held accountable,” she said. Some companies seem unwilling or unable to find out accurate information about their own supply chains,” she said.