The U.S. has now banned a number of big Chinese companies from exporting tons of human hair that have been flooding into America amid concerns that it has been sourced from ethnic minorities being held in China’s notorious internment camps, the Daily Mail reported.

The human hair—also known as “black gold”—industry raked in more than $2.5 billion for the U.S. economy in 2018, according to research company Mintel. The vast majority of hair products are imported from Asia, primarily China, according to CNN.

It was reported that the majority of this Chinese hair has been supplied from manufacturers in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang—where two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps since 2016.

Former inmates have described the alleged torture and abuse they suffered at the camps—including accusations of electrocution, intrusive medical examinations, forced sterilizations, and having their heads shaved.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now moving to crack down on shipments of human hair from the regions and has issued several Withhold Release Orders (WRO) on manufacturers from that area.

The Daily Mail reported that “the House of Representatives also passed a new bill, the ‘Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’, on September 22 which puts the burden of responsibility on manufacturers to prove that forced labor is not present in their supply chains.”

The outlet continued:

Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that ‘China is strongly indignant and opposed’ to the bill which ‘maliciously smears the human rights situation in Xinjiang.’ 

The Information Office of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region expressed ‘severe condemnation’ regarding the ‘barbaric act’ against ‘private enterprises’ that ‘provide opportunities for local ethnic minority people to achieve employment and help get rid of poverty.’ 

Federal authorities in New York seized 13 tons of weaves and other beauty accessories in June that were suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said that the 13 tons of hair products had an estimated value of $800,000.

The shipment was reportedly made by Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd. in May. A similar hold was placed on Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. Ltd., although those weaves were synthetic, not human, according to the agency.

Both of the exporters are in China’s far west Xinjiang region, where, over the past four years, the government has detained an estimated one million or more ethnic Turkic minorities.

The Daily Mail reported: “The ethnic minorities are held in internment camps and prisons where they are subjected to ideological discipline, forced to denounce their religion and language and physically abused. China has long suspected the Uyghurs, who are mostly Muslim, of harboring separatist tendencies because of their distinct culture, language and religion.”

Reports by the AP and other news organizations have repeatedly found that people inside the internment camps and prisons, which activists call “black factories,” are making sportswear and other apparel for popular U.S. brands.

The AP attempted to visit Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co. more than a year ago during an investigation into forced labor inside the camps. But police called the cabdriver taking AP journalists to the area, ordering the driver to turn back and warning that the cab’s coordinates were being tracked, according to the Daily Mail.

The Chinese Ministry of Affairs has said there is no forced labor or detention of ethnic minorities.

“We hope that certain people in the United States can take off their tinted glasses, correctly understand and objectively and rationally view normal economic and trade cooperation between Chinese and American enterprises,” the ministry said in a statement.

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