EXCLUSIVE: Cuccinelli Reveals U.S. Strategic Goal To End China’s Concentration Camps

Millions of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are reportedly being held in hundreds of concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang province under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the U.S. government is working to dismantle this human rights atrocity, as well as level the economic playing field with China, said DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli in an exclusive interview with this reporter.

Cuccinelli criticized the Chinese government’s apparent and alleged human rights abuses. For example, one disturbing report from the Associated Press suggests that the Chinese government is quietly committing a genocide by forcing sterilization, birth control, and abortions of the minority Muslim population.

The Chinese government has denied any such human rights abuses against the minorities and says the camps are simply used for “reeducation.” Beijing, however, keeps the camps under strict surveillance and bars the public and journalists from entering or even going near them.

Many U.S. government agencies and nonprofit groups have collected evidence that suggests China has used the minority groups for slave labor and the products they’ve made have reached our shores. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working diligently to stop the campaign in its tracks by issuing Withhold Release Orders (WROs) on products suspected of being produced under the inhumane conditions.

Cuccinelli described the efforts to combat the CCP’s campaign as not only a strategic one, but also a humanitarian one that both Republicans and Democrats should support.

“People can throw around Nazi illusions and holocaust and that’s an extraordinary scale of evil to be speaking of, but here we literally have between one and three million people who are held in concentration camps,” Cuccinelli told this reporter on a phone call Tuesday. “Now, the attempt to exterminate them directly is actually a bit of an open question.”

He added, “it’s very clear that they are not treated like the rest of Chinese citizens. They’re detained, they are subject to physical assault, sexual assault, to all sorts of different restrictions and what would by any definition be torture, and the forced labor. First and foremost, this is a humanitarian undertaking. The United States has always taken that seriously.”

“How do we convert our principles into action, well here’s one way we do it.”

“We obviously at the Department of Homeland Security and CBP, they take it very seriously,” he explained. “The office of Trade has done a very good job in building the cases for these five WROs.”

Cuccinelli said another element is that no American worker and no American company “should have to compete against genuine slave labor, not used euphemistically to say ‘oh, they don’t pay them much,’ this is literally people not free to leave who are forced to go create these products, to be the manpower and then they’re attempted to be sold in the United States.”

“Our workers shouldn’t have to compete with that, our businesses shouldn’t have to compete with that,” he said. “And by denying them access to our market, we make the entire system the Chinese government runs in the Xinjiang province, less viable. The ultimate strategic goal is to get them to abandon it and set these people free.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have made a number of critical seizures of packages that DHS says with almost full certainty contain products produced by slave labor in China. On Monday, CBP issued five WROs as part of an ongoing effort to crack down on the CCP’s campaign. The products sold in those recent packages range from hair to technology to even branches of the Chinese Communist government.

WROs are issued “when information reasonably but not conclusively indicates that merchandise within the purview of this provision is being imported. All items are detained and the company is allowed to appeal the designation by providing proof that the item wasn’t produced by forced labor. Furthermore, the company must also show evidence that they don’t use forced labor at all.

Cuccinelli described Monday’s WROs as “a continuation of an investigative effort by customs and border protection that’s been going on for a couple of years now.” Chinese companies have been slammed with the most WROs out of any other country, with 41 dating as far back as 1991.

Earlier this summer, CBP seized nearly 13 tons of human hair with a value of over $800,000, as reported. One of Monday’s seizures also included hair products.

“So we’re gradually expanding the scope of the impact of these import bans, which is what a WRO effectively does, based on the use of slave labor.”

Monday’s five seizures also included products from a company that’s “an element of the Chinese Communist government,” Cuccinelli said, adding “They call it a vocational education camp, we call it a concentration camp because that’s what it is. They provide forced labor to a couple other companies that we have identified in the same industrial park. And WROs have been issued, levied at those two companies for using that labor.”

“So this is a bit of a belt and suspenders situation as far as the use of the slave labor there, but there were also cotton and apparel companies, I mentioned the concentration camp itself, there’s also a computer parts company, but the grand total is over $200,000,000 a year of trade,” Cuccinelli said.

“And this follows also not just the issuance of other WROs, but, early this summer, the Department of Homeland Security with the Departments of State, Labor, and Treasury issued a business advisory, urging businesses to back away from their supply chain participants who are working out of the Xinjiang province as the odds are very high that they are utilizing slave labor,” he added. “So, that was an advisory. I know in July, Treasury imposed some sanctions. This summer, CBP imposed a number of WROs, and then yesterday of course the five issued at once was obviously a big deal in continuing to expand the enforcement efforts on the part of the United States against the use of slave labor by the Chinese Communist governments.”

Once hit with WROs, companies have two options, Cuccinelli explained: “They can take the products and leave the country, thus they lose access to the U.S. market, or they can attempt to overcome the burden of proof, and then they’re in the position of having to prove that their goods were not in fact made with slave labor, so they have to prove a negative in that situation.”

He said they “essentially have to provide evidence of the entire supply chain to be able to do that. Can it be done? Yes. But we don’t typically issue these WROs if we think it’s a close call, we’re typically quite confident that we have the evidence on the books to win a contest because ultimately they can take that conclusion to court, but in the last year, I’m not aware of a single one of those happening. And I’m certainly not aware of any of them prevailing.”

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