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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

Biden steps into the breach

Sen. Joe Manchin heads to a meeting with President Biden today. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Biden ramped up the pressure on his fellow Democrats Wednesday, calling a series of lawmakers to the White House in the hope of ending infighting and getting them in line.

Why it matters: Divisions within the party are threatening to derail Biden's top priorities. After several weeks of letting negotiations play out, the president is finally asserting his power to ensure his own party doesn't block his agenda.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Dems seek new green deal

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats discussed with President Biden on Wednesday a plan to exempt billions of dollars of new climate spending from his requirement that his $3.5 trillion "soft" infrastructure plan be offset with additional revenue.

Why it matters: The accounting proposal — a version of "dynamic scoring" — would dramatically lower the amount of taxes Democrats would need to raise while creating wiggle room to increase the ultimate size of the package.

2 hours ago - Health

FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 and people 65 years and older.

Driving the news: The approval comes just days after an FDA advisory panel recommended boosters for the two groups but overwhelmingly voted against the third shots for younger Americans.