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A farmer harvests cotton in a field in October in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Photo: Pulati Niyazi/VCG via Getty Images

The Trump administration announced Wednesday the U.S. will block imports of cotton products from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China because of forced labor concerns.

Why it matters: The plan to seize the cotton shipments from a powerful Chinese quasi-military group is the latest U.S. response to China's detention of over 1 million Uighur Muslims in internment camps.

  • Per Axios' Jonathan Swan and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, President Trump is stepping up hardline policies against China in his final weeks in office, with a goal of making it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course.

The big picture: The CBP issued a "Withhold Release Order" on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps products after obtaining information "that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, including convict labor," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

  • It's the sixth enforced action by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in response to the China's detention camps.
  • The Trump administration has also sanctioned Chinese officials for human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
  • Meanwhile, the House passed a bill in September to ban products made with forced labor in the detention camps. The Senate has yet to take up the legislation.

What they're saying: DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said during a news conference that "'Made in China is not just a country of origin it is a warning label."

"Those cheap cotton goods you may be buying for family and friends during the season of giving, if coming from China, may have been made by slave labor in some of the most egregious human rights violations existing today."

Of note: President-elect Biden has pledged to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy."

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Former Google CEO and others call for U.S.-China tech "bifurcation"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

2 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. chargés d'affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

Why it matters: The move underscores U.S. fears that a Russian invasion could destabilize Ukraine and threaten the embassy's ability to assist Americans.