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Walmart sparks public outcry in China over products from Xinjiang
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Walmart Inc., the world’s largest retailer, became the latest Western company to face scrutiny over its handling of business involving Xinjiang, following the passage of a U.S. law that virtually bans all imports from the northwestern Chinese region over forced-labor and human-rights concerns.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer attracted anger on Chinese social media beginning last week after internet users shared comments that purported to show that Walmart had stopped stocking products from Xinjiang in its China-based Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. Some said they had canceled their Sam’s Club memberships, while social-media accounts run by Communist Party-backed entities weighed in to criticize the company.
The northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, home to millions of mostly Muslim minorities, has become a geopolitical flashpoint and an ethical dilemma for U.S. multinationals doing business in China. The Biden administration has accused the Chinese government of engaging in genocide against religious minorities in the region.
Last week, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, following its near-unanimous passage in Congress. The law bans all imports to the U.S. from the region unless companies can certify that such products are free from forced labor.
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China has rejected allegations of genocide and forced labor, describing their policies in the region as aimed at preventing terrorism and protecting national security.
Last week, U.S. semiconductor giant Intel Inc. issued an apology to Chinese consumers, partners and the public following an outcry on Chinese social media against the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which had published on its website a letter to suppliers asking them to avoid sourcing from Xinjiang. The original letter said that the restrictions were required in response to U.S. law, though it didn’t specify which law.