In the United States, the 'China' issue is a sensitive one. Here in the UK, few people know that on the other side of the ocean there is a list of companies banned for alleged links with Chinese forced labour. Today, major international newspapers are reporting on a report by the staff of the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden, that at least 8,000 Mini Coopers (BMW Group) were imported into the US with components from the banned Chinese company Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group (JWD).

"Automakers' self-monitoring is clearly not working," the Democratic senator said, urging the US Customs and Border Protection agency to "strengthen enforcement and crack down on companies that fuel China's shameful use of forced labour". Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen are also mentioned in the report.

What the Congressional Report Says

The US Congressional report states that BMW allegedly imported 8,000 Mini Coopers with parts from a Chinese supplier banned under the 2021 law and that the company would continue to import products with the banned parts until at least April 2024. BMW Group said in an email that it has 'taken steps to stop the import of the affected products' and, according to Automotive News Europe, the company will conduct a service action to replace the specific parts and stressed that it has 'rigorous standards and policies regarding employment practices, human rights and working conditions, which all our direct suppliers must follow'.

The report also alleges that Jaguar Land Rover imported parts that included components from the Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group after the company was placed on the banned list. Jaguar Land Rover told the BBC that it takes human rights and forced labour issues very 'seriously' and has 'an active and ongoing programme of human rights protection and anti-slavery measures'.

In February, the report continued, Volkswagen had voluntarily informed customs officials that thousands of its vehicles, including Porsche and Bentley, had been detained by authorities because they contained a component that violated US laws against forced labour. Volvo also allegedly received 'banned' components that it had not yet used.

What American law says

In recent years, China has been accused of detaining more than one million Uyghurs (a Turkish-speaking ethnic group of the Islamic religion living in north-west China, specifically in Xinjiang) against their will. In 2021, the US Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA) to prevent the import of goods from this Chinese region.

The Chinese authorities have always denied all allegations and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said recently that 'the so-called Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of the United States is not about forced labour but about creating unemployment. It does not protect human rights but, under the guise of human rights, damages the survival and labour rights of people in Xinjiang'.

The Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group was added to the list of UFLPA entities in December 2023 and according to the US Congressional report, Bourns Inc, a direct supplier for BMW and Jaguar Land Rover based in California, would purchase components from JWD in January 2024.