Federal authorities seize shipment of human hair extensions believed to have been made in Xinjiang prison camps

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Activist protests in front of Japan National Press Center where Rebiya Kadeer, president of World Uighur Congress, delivered a press conference on July 29, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan.

Junko Kimura/Getty Images


  • US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers on Wednesday seized a shipment of human hair extensions believed to have been manufactured in Xinjiang, China, using forced labor. 
  • The hair extensions were part of a shipment of nearly 13 tons of hair products with an estimated value of more than $800,000. 
  • Brenda Smith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade, said in the statement that the manufacturing of these products represents a “very serious human rights violation.”
  • China has been accused of running hundreds of detention centers, labor camps, and prisons in the autonomous western region of Xinjiang. Several major global companies have been accused of benefiting from forced labor emanating from these camps. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized a shipment of human hair extensions that were said to have originated from Xinjiang, China, where millions of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities are believed to be held in detention centers. 

CBP, who announced the seizure in a statement on Wednesday, said the shipment indicated “potential human rights abuses of forced child labor and imprisonment.” The hair extensions were part of a shipment of nearly 13 tons of hair products with an estimated value of more than $800,000. 

According to the statement, the shipment was seized by officers at the Port of New York and New Jersey in compliance with a June 17 detention order on goods produced by Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd., a Chinese company accused of utilizing prison labor to manufacture its hair products. 

“The manufacturing process may include additional situations of forced labor, including, but not limited to, excessive overtime, withholding of wages, and the restriction of movement,” CBP said. 

Brenda Smith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade, said in the statement that the manufacturing of these products represents a “very serious human rights violation.”

“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 Smith. “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 US supply chains.” 

Several major global companies, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen, have been accused of benefiting from forced Uighur labor. 

China has been accused of running hundreds of detention centers, labor camps, and prisons in the western region of Xinjiang. Interviews with people who were held in the camps reveal allegations of beatings and food deprivation, as well as medical experimentation on prisoners.

China has acknowledged the existence of some “reeducation camps” but repeatedly denied any reports of abuse at its facilities.

The region has a population of about 10 million citizens, many of whom are Uighur or other ethnic minorities, and in May, Assistant Secretary of US Defence Randall Schriver said “at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens” were detained in these facilities. 

And a recent leak of classified Chinese government documents known as the “China Cables” laid out a manual for exactly how the detention centers were to operate, from preventing escape by double locking all the doors to using a “points system” based on behavior that is linked “directly to rewards, punishments, and family visits.”

Last month, President Donald Trump signed a law sanctioning Chinese officials responsible for the oppression of Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups. The bill, called the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, was overwhelmingly supported by both the House and the Senate.

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