13 Tons Of (Alleged) Concentration Camp Prisoner Hair From China Seized At Border
On Wednesday, a shipment of 13 tons of human hair, worth approximately $800,000, was seized by US Customs and Border Protection, as it was suspected to have been both harvested from and made by Uyghurs in a Chinese labor camp.
Since 2017, as part of China's "war on terror," over a million Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic minorities have been held in the horrific re-education camps in the Xinjiang autonomous region, where they are often sterilized, forced to do hard labor, otherwise tortured, raped, and starved until they sing songs praising Chinese leader Xi Jinping (whose policies are keeping them in these camps) and not let out until those running the camps feel that they have been sufficiently cleansed of their own culture and religion (the Uyghurs are mostly Muslim) and accepted the ways of the Han Chinese.
Apparently, this "re-education" now also means cutting their hair off and forcing them to make it into weaves for American consumers. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it is a thing that happens in real life.
"The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains," said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Trade. [...]
Wednesday's shipment was made by Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd. In May, a similar detention was placed on Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. Ltd., although those weaves were synthetic, not human, the agency said. Hetian Haolin's products were imported by Os Hair in Duluth, Georgia, and I & I Hair, headquartered in Dallas. I & I's weaves are sold under the Innocence brand to salons and individuals around the U.S.
Just recently, it was revealed in former national security advisor John Bolton's book that when Donald Trump was told by President Xi Jinping of his plan to build these concentration camps, Trump "said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do." He also reportedly asked Xi to help him out with the 2020 election. Trump later responded to this by saying he purposely didn't want to put sanctions on China over the concentration camps because he was in trade talks and wanted those to go well.
Technically, since 2016, the United States has banned all products made with forced labor. Technically. There are many ways around that, so long as the supply chain is opaque enough. Many precious stones (including all those "healing crystals"), coffee beans, and cocoa beans are mined and harvested by actual slaves. Child slaves, usually. Actual child slaves, not the pretend QAnon mole children child slaves.
And not just those things, either:
The Department of Labor has found 148 goods produced by child labor, forced labor or both in 76 countries around the world. We can't really do much about it because free trade agreements make it very easy and convenient for companies to keep supply chains murky. In most cases, without serious investigations, it's often difficult to know which companies are using actual slave labor — and the fact is, most people don't really care so long as their stuff is cheap. Other people think if you say anything mean about fair trade three times, Ralph Nader will appear out of the ether and spoil an election.
But in this case, it is extremely obvious where the hair was coming from and who it was made by (and from) — and while the United States is usually pretty chill about prison labor, since we do it ourselves, there is a ban on products coming from the Xinjiang detention camps for obvious reasons.
Shockingly, the Chinese government has claimed that this is not a thing, as they usually do when they are accused of doing horrible things to an ethnic minority. They really hope it won't get in the way of trade relations.
"We hope that certain people in the United States can take off their tinted glasses, correctly understand and objectively and rationally view normal economic and trade cooperation between Chinese and American enterprises," the ministry said in a statement.
And, except for that one shipment, it probably won't.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse