Senate investigates automakers for ties to forced Uyghur labor in China
Sen. Wyden has sought information from Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen with regards to their component sourcing processes.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has opened an investigation into whether automakers are using components in their vehicles made from Chinese factories that use forced labor.
China is currently engaged in a systematic effort to erase the Muslim-majority Uyghur population in its Northwestern Xinjiang province, known to the natives as East Turkestan. To that effect the communist government has put together a string of detention facilities under the guise of "vocational training centers" within which detainees endure relentless indoctrination efforts.
Witnesses have testified to forced abortions, sterilizations, organ harvesting, religious persecution, and communist indoctrination. Many of the "graduates" said facilities are then forcibly removed to a Han majority region, to assimilate into Chinese culture and participate in forced labor. Additionally, communist officials have worked to eliminate the native language and force the adoption of the non-indigenous Mandarin.
Wyden has sought information from Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen with regards to their component sourcing processes, according to the Washington Times.
Wyden gave the companies until Jan. 13 to respond to his inquiries and further asked whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection had flagged or confiscated any of their products under the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act of 2021.
"Unless due diligence confirms that components are not linked to forced labor, automakers cannot and should not sell cars in the United States that include components mined or produced in Xinjiang," he wrote to the firms. "However, this recognition cannot cause the United States to compromise its fundamental commitment to upholding human rights and U.S. law."
As many Uyghurs have been removed from Xinjiang to work in factories in other regions, it is possible that an auto manufacturer may encounter forced labor at some point in its supply chain, even if the company does no business in Xinjiang itself. Wyden has further sought company analysis on the firms' supply chains to address that possibility.
Various Chinese polities throughout history have controlled parts of the Xinjiang region, though it did not become a permanent fixture of the Chinese state until the 18th century when the Qing Qianlong Emperor conquered the region as part of his Ten Great Campaigns. There were, however, subsequent periods of revolt and unrecognized, de facto independence.