At least 5 organizations say they won't help brands audit supply chains in China's Xinjiang region

Aksu, Xinjiang.
(Image credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images))

As concerns grow over the alleged human rights abuses and forced labor in China's Xinjiang territory, five organizations told The Wall Street Journal they won't provide labor-audit or inspection services of companies' supply chains in the region. Two other auditing companies told the Workers Rights Consortium they won't operate in Xinjiang in emails reviewed by the Journal, but did not respond to requests for comment. Another firm confirmed it would no longer conduct audits there, but did not elaborate.

The withdrawal of auditors has sparked some mixed reactions, says the Journal. Some other firms acknowledged the challenges of detecting forced labor in Xinjiang — auditors have been detained by Chinese authorities and others are required to rely on Beijing-approved translators who may convey misinformation at factories employing Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities, while some workers simply find the risk of telling the truth to auditors to be too great — but also expressed concern that blacklisting the region could push human rights abuses even further underground.

At the same time, there's a sense that third-party auditors generally are more inclined to serve corporate interests, lowering the chances of exposing violations, the Journal reports. That's why labor rights groups and Uighur rights activists have urged organizations to halt audits in Xinjiang. Ultimately, they believe forcing companies to shift their supply chains out of the region is the only way to avoid contributing to forced-labor practices. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.