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China imposes sanctions on American compliance firm for conducting research on Uyghurs – Radio Free Asia

Beijing has sanctioned Kharon, a U.S.-based company that helps businesses comply with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans the import of goods made using forced labor in China’s far-west.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday the sanctions were a “countermeasure” to hit back at sanctions imposed on Dec. 8 by the United States against two Chinese officials for their role in “serious human rights abuses” against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

“In accordance with China’s Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, we will take countermeasures against American intelligence data company Kharon, which has long collected Xinjiang-related sensitive information and provided so-called evidence for America’s illegal sanctions,” Mao said.

Mao said sanctions would also be issued against Kharon’s director of investigations, Edmund Xu, and Nicole Morgret, a former researcher with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, which earlier this year issued a report about U.S. brands ties to Uyghur-mined gold.

She said both Xu and Morget would be banned from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, and would have any assets frozen there.

“We again urge the U.S. to stop smearing China, cancel the illegal unilateral sanctions on Chinese officials and companies, and stop implementing wrongful acts such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” Mao said at a press briefing. “If the U.S. refuses to change course, China will not flinch and will respond in kind.”

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

Los Angeles-based Kharon describes itself as a research company that helps businesses “identify a wide range of sanctions and compliance risks” to assist “with managing financial crimes, supply chain exposure, export controls, investment risk, and more.”

Among other things, the company helps businesses comply with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans the import into the United States of any goods produced using the slave labor of Uyghurs, and presumes that any goods originating from Xinjiang are tainted.

In a statement, Kharon said its “world-class” investigative and analytical services were “relied upon by thousands of clients, customers, and stakeholders to effectively and efficiently manage risk in accordance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements.”

The firm also denied it was engaging in a smear campaign and said that because it has no presence in China, the sanctions “will not impact its operations or ability to service its clients.”

“Kharon notes that the Government of China has sanctioned other U.S. businesses, individuals, and organizations over the last several years,” it said, adding it “will continue to provide research and data analytics that is objective, independent, and based on reliable sources.”

As many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other members of ethnic Turkic groups are thought to have been detained by Chinese authorities since 2017. The United States has previously labeled the effort a genocide and has cited allegations of torture, forced labor, sterilization, and severe restrictions on freedom of speech, movement and religion.

China has called its efforts in Xinjiang a “de-extremification” campaign and has dismissed allegations of widespread abuse as a lie.

Louisa Greve, the director of global advocacy for the Uyghur Human Rights Project and a former colleague of Morgret, said the sanctions issued by Beijing were a hamfisted attempt to hit back at an increasingly successful global campaign to call out its abuses.

“Overall, it is clear that the Chinese government wishes to censor and intimidate anyone uncovering the facts about the Chinese government’s state imposed forced labor of Uyghurs,” Greve said. “However, these sanctions cannot cover up the truth.”

Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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