Overseas Human Rights Violations

Ariez Bueno 

Associate Editor 

Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2025 

On January 23, 2024, China’s human rights record was examined in the Universal Periodic Review. The U.N. Meeting included many Western countries raising their concerns over the treatment of Xinjiang Uyghurs. Although Beijing denied any abuse of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China, Western accusations of genocide and human rights persist. Concerns over Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have grown, especially as the Congressional-Executive Commission on China reported possible forced labor operations.  

Unethical products 

On October 31, 2023, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) sent letters to various global marketplace giants like Costco and ADI Global questioning their sale of products that may be linked to forced labor production. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in China’s western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been arbitrarily detained and coerced into forced labor. Workers have been subject to threats of detention, constant surveillance, and isolation. U.S. officials believe that China has established labor camps for Uyghurs and minorities throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The CECC is calling out companies that maintain direct contact with American consumers as the U.S. tightens restrictions on imports from China. 

CECC background 

Congress established the CECC in October 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China. The Commission championed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that sought to impose sanctions on China for genocide against Uyghurs and prevent companies from using forced labor within their supply chains. The act was signed into law on December 23, 2021 and set out a process for the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to prevent goods made from forced labor to enter the U.S. The act established a rebuttable presumption that Chinese goods violate regulations unless the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection determines that the goods are not products of forced labor.  

NBA sportswear linked to force labor 

On September 28, 2023, the CECC wrote to National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver urging the association and players’ union to cut ties with Chinese sportswear companies linked to forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Sportswear sellers like ANTA, Li-Ning, and Peak have contracts with various NBA players while publicly embracing the use of supply chains that have been linked to forced labor. The CECC noted that NBA is in a unique position to stand against forced labor because of the nexus between NBA’s brand and the sale of basketball gear and shoes. NBA statements on the matter have yet to be released.  

The CECC issued another letter to National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) President, C.J. McCollum to address the NBPA’s potential complicity of human rights violations and censorship. The letter specifically called out players like Kyrie Irving after he signed up to be the Chief Creative Officer of ANTA. Despite the criticisms against the NBPA, the CECC notes that the sportswear is only “likely” made with forced labor. Following the CECC’s letter, Irving’s representative released a statement saying that Irving and ANTA stand against human rights violations and that ANTA does not partake in forced labor in their manufacturing processes. 

Dahua technology and Costco 

On October 31, 2023, the CECC sent a letter to Costco Wholesale questioning Costco’s selling of Lorex security products. Lorex is linked the Chinese company Dahua, whose products are restricted in the U.S. by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2018, Dahua purchased Lorex, owning 100% of the company. In 2019, the U.S. government banned the use of Dahua security cameras in federal facilities and in 2021, the FCC commenced to ban the sale of the Dahua products to the public. Dahua’s cybersecurity faults, like unauthorized viewing of video feeds, were deemed to pose “an unacceptable to risk to the national security of the United States” by organizations like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.  

Additionally, companies like Dahua are associated with assisting genocide and other human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Dahua has been directly linked to mass surveillance schemes that target Uyghurs through ethnicity tracking.  

Costco’s unethical seafood 

The CECC’s October 31, 2023, letter also noted that Costco’s seafood from Chinese companies have used force labor to catch and process seafood. This is troubling for the seafood industry because China is the world’s largest seafood producer with productions estimated at 67.5 million metric tons in 2022. The letter referenced the Outlaw Ocean Project, a nonprofit journalism organization, that exposed human rights violations on illegal, unregulated, and unreported Chinese fishing fleets. The CECC stressed the importance of serving Americans consumers with products not “tainted with forced labor”. Ian Urbina, Director of the Outlaw Ocean Project, testified before the CECC about the various tactics used to coerce labor. These methods of coerced labor included human trafficking, beatings, passport confiscation, and debt bondage. Mr. Urbina advocated for the enforcement of laws, like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, to combat such violations. As of now, Costco has not issued a response to the letter’s inquiries. 

U.S. action 

As the U.S. learns more about international ethical concerns, the need for changes in the marketplace increases. The actions of the Chinese companies are in direct conflict with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Associations like the NBA should not be complicit to such international travesties. Further, retail giants like Costco should not allow American consumers to buy products riddled with ethical concerns. But will stopping the commercialization of products tainted by human rights violations be enough?