Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has criticized Intel for “self-censoring” after reports emerged that the company deleted references about China’s Xinjiang region from an open letter to suppliers posted on its website.
The letter, originally published in December 2021, asked suppliers not to source goods, services, or labor from Xinjiang, signaling concerns over potential forced labor abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the area.
Due to backlash on Chinese social media, the U.S. chipmaker posted an apology on its WeChat and Weibo accounts on Dec. 23, 2021. The open letter was later modified and now includes a generic prohibition of using forced labor in the supply chains, with no specific mention of Xinjiang, as reported by the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 10.
Rubio released a statement on Jan. 11, saying that “instead of humiliating apologies and self-censorship, companies should move their supply chains to countries that do not use slave labor or commit genocide.”
The Chinese regime’s campaign against Uyghurs in Xinjiang has been labeled genocide by the former and current United States administrations, and the parliaments from Canada, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and the UK.
An independent people’s tribunal, known as the Uyghur Tribunal, ruled on Dec. 9 that the Chinese regime has committed genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, through an array of repressive acts including mass internment, family separation, sterilizations, and forced labor.
The U.N. estimates that more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang.
Intel’s original letter said the company had been “required to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region”.
According to Intel’s apology statement issued on Dec. 23, 2021, the now-deleted reference to Xinjiang had been included in the letter as an expression of compliance with U.S. law, rather than a statement of its position on the issue.
On the same day as the apology, President Biden signed into law a highly anticipated bill that bans imports from Xinjiang. The legislation, called Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, assumes goods produced in the regime are made with forced labor unless it can be proven otherwise by U.S. importers.
Rubio further said that “if companies like Intel continue to obscure the facts about U.S. law just to appease the Chinese Communist Party then they should be ineligible for any funding under the CHIPS Act.”
The CHIPS Act was enacted into law late last year as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. It provides for $50 billion in funding to establish new semiconductor foundries in the United States.
Rita Li and Nick Ciolino contributed to this report.