The U.S. is cracking down on several Chinese companies that export human hair — an industry so lucrative the product is often called “black gold” — over fears the hair was shorn from ethnic minorities locked inside China’s terrifying internment camps.
The $2.5 billion industry mostly includes hair products from Asia, mainly from China, CNN reported. But the majority of imported Chinese hair comes from manufacturers in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang. That area is where 2 million Uyghurs, who are mostly Muslim and other ethnic minorities, have been detained since 2016.
As part of a month-long investigation, CNN obtained trade data showing a surge in shipments of hair products from an industrial park in Xinjiang to the US in 2017 — an area with four internment camps nearby.
Former inmates say they were tortured and abused at the camps. Along with enduring electrocution, intrusive medical examinations, and forced sterilizations, the inmates said their heads were shaved.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now refusing exports of human hair from the region to enter the country.
Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said the crackdown “maliciously smears the human rights situation in Xinjiang.”
In June, federal authorities in New York seized 13 tons of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the 13 tons of hair products were worth an estimated $800,000.
Reports by the AP and other news organizations have repeatedly found that people inside the internment camps, which activists call “black factories,” are making sportswear and other apparel for well-known US brands.
China denies accusations of forced labor or detention of ethnic minorities.
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