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Credit: BCI.com via Wayback Machine

Last year, an international cotton watchdog organization announced it was ceasing all operations in Xinjiang amid reports of widespread forced labor. That statement has now disappeared from the organization's website as backlash grows in China against international attempts to boycott Xinjiang cotton.

The big picture: The Chinese government is pressuring foreign companies and organizations to stay silent on repression in Xinjiang, or in some cases, to even actively promote Xinjiang-made products.

What's happening: The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a Europe-based nonprofit, has recently faced pressure to rescind its October 2020 announcement that it was enacting a policy of "responsible disengagement" and pulling out of Xinjiang.

  • In late March, the Chinese state-affiliated Global Times ran a series of articles lambasting BCI for ceasing its Xinjiang operations.
  • On March 26, BCI's Shanghai branch said that it had found no evidence of forced labor in the Xinjiang cotton industry.

Driving the news: Major global clothing retailers including H&M and Adidas have recently faced a state-fanned consumer boycott in China over their previous statements disavowing Xinjiang cotton.

Background: A growing body of evidence indicates that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs may be working under coerced conditions in the Xinjiang cotton industry, amid a campaign of repression including mass internment and forced sterilization of Muslim minorities.

  • The U.S. has banned imports of all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.

What they're saying: "We will not be providing input on this at the moment," BCI spokesperson Joe Woodruff told Axios in an email.

  • When asked in a follow-up email if BCI now believed there was no forced labor in the Xinjiang cotton industry and if BCI would be resuming operations there, Woodruff did not respond.

Go deeper: Global textile watchdogs struggled to raise alarms in Xinjiang

Go deeper

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million in ransom

Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline paid hackers linked to the DarkSide cybercrime group nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency after last week's ransomware attack, Bloomberg first reported and the New York Times confirmed.

Why it matters: The breach of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S. triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.

Biden warns gas stations not to price gouge: "That's not who we are"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday warned gas companies to not price gouge amid major shortages following the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

The big picture: Biden added that the FBI does not believe the Russian government is behind the attack, but they do know that those responsible "are living in Russia."

Pelosi condemns GOP lawmakers for downplaying Jan. 6 Capitol attack

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday tore into Republican members of Congress who downplayed the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot during a House hearing on Wednesday, telling reporters: "I don't know [of] a normal day around here when people are threatening to hang the vice president."

Why it matters: House lawmakers are currently in negotiations over forming a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission to examine the attack and the events that led up to it.