US CBP Detains Chinese Shipment of Suspected Forced Labour Products Made with Human Hair

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of New York/Newark detained a shipment of products/accessories suspected to be made with human hair today that originated in Xinjiang, China, indicating potential human right abuses of forced child labour and imprisonment. The products were part of shipment of almost 13 tons of hair products worth over $800,000 dollars.

CBP detained the shipment in accordance with a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on hair products manufactured by Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd.  On June 17, CBP instructed ports of entry nationwide to detain all such products based on information that reasonably indicated that they are manufactured with the use of prison labour. The manufacturing process may include additional situations of forced labour, including, but not limited to, excessive overtime, withholding of wages, and the restriction of movement. The WRO provides the importer of record the opportunity to export the shipment or to demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labour.

“It is absolutely essential that American importers ensure that the integrity of their supply chain meets the humane and ethical standards expected by the American government and by American consumers,” said Brenda Smith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade. “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.” 

Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, manufactured, or produced, wholly or in part, by forced labour, including convict labour, forced child labour, and indentured labour. The current detention underlines the importance and effectiveness of WRO implementation in ensuring that the goods entering U.S. commerce meet the requirements set forth by this statute.

The importation of goods produced with forced labour threatens the reliability of the U.S. supply chain and introduces unfair competition into the global market, which can negatively affect the competitiveness and integrity of American businesses. It is the responsibility of all U.S. importers to confirm their supply chains are free of forced labour in order to ensure the origin and quality of goods consumed by the American public align with the laws and principles established by the United States Government and to protect the American economy.

All WROs are publicly available and listed by country on CBP’s Forced Labor Withhold Release Orders and Findings webpage. The Forced Labor Division (FLD), established in 2017 within CBP’s Office of Trade, leads the enforcement of the prohibition on the importation of goods made from forced labour.

CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO) and the ports of entry throughout the country represent the agency’s front line in intercepting illicit trade.  Within CBP, the Office of Trade conducts investigations into allegations of forced labour and if substantiated, directs the associated enforcement actions. Every day CBP interdicts shipments containing goods that are unlawfully produced using forced labour or that violate laws related to safety or intellectual property rights.