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20 May 2021

Cheryl Teh, Insider

USA: UNIQLO shirts seized by customs after being suspected of being produced using forced labor in Xinjiang

A shipment of Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo's cotton shirts was seized by US Customs in Los Angeles after officials suspected the garments were made using forced labor from China's Xinjiang region.

In a customs ruling released by the US Customs and Border Protection dated May 10, the agency said it blocked a shipment of Uniqlo men's shirts in January for violating a ban on cotton products from Xinjiang.

The agency added that it will not release the shirts for import as Fast Retailing, Uniqlo's parent company, did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that its products were completely free from forced labor linked to Xinjiang's cotton-picking industry.

In the document, the agency elaborated that among other pieces of missing evidence, Uniqlo failed to list its complete production steps and production record for the shirts.

The agency further justified its seizure of the shipment as any cotton products exported to the US that have links to Xinjiang's cotton production industry would violate a 2020 detention order set by the US Department of Homeland Security. The order instructs customs officials to "detain shipments containing cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps." [...]

Uniqlo is one of Fast Retailing's major brands, and the company on Wednesday told Nikkei Asia that the agency's  decision was "very regrettable."

In a separate statement to Bloomberg, the company said: "Uniqlo is disappointed by the recent decision from the US  Customs and Border Protection agency."

"Uniqlo has strong mechanisms in place to identify any potential violations of human and worker rights. All Uniqlo items use only cotton that originates from sustainable sources," the statement added. [...]

Part of the following timelines

China: 83 major brands implicated in report on forced labour of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang assigned to factories across provinces; Includes company responses

Brands face boycott in China over decision not to source Xinjiang cotton due to allegations of forced labour

USA blocked UNIQLO shirts after officials suspected the used of forced labor from Xinjiang