At Nike, Uyghur Lives Don't Matter

July 7, 2020

If you want to know how sincere companies like Nike, Apple, Samsung, and others are about fighting injustice, look overseas. While these CEOs get on their moral high horse about all of America's racial failings, it's time for these businesses to take a long, hard look in the mirror. If they think slavery was a blight on U.S. history, then what are they doing supporting it in China today?

For Nike, black lives may matter, but Uyghur lives sure don't. While the company commits millions of dollars to "social justice" here at home, the reality is, they're contributing to China's growing injustice in factories thousands of miles away. Countless Uyghurs, a group so persecuted that they're being systematically sterilized, aborted, and locked away in concentration camps, are huddling over American shoes, stitching the familiar swoosh on the sides. "Everyone knows they didn't come here of their own free will," one of the area vendors tells the Washington Post's Anna Fifield. "The Uyghurs had to come because they didn't have an option. The government sent them here."

Shipped to factories around the country, they're sentenced to work as slaves for some of America's most recognizable brands. Surrounded by barbed wire, prison guards, and security cameras, the persecuted minority is the dirty secret U.S. companies have been keeping. "Bought and sold" by local governments to work for Nike, Apple, and others, these woke CEOs are being implicated in one of the worst human rights atrocities in the world. And it's time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insists, to hold them accountable.

In an advisory to U.S. businesses, his team is warning CEOs to pull back from supply chains that engage in this kind of oppression, especially, the notice insisted, because of the "reputational, economic, and legal risks of involvement with such entities." America, the secretary told me on Monday's "Washington Watch," would like to have a good relationship with China, but their treatment of the Uyghurs -- and their recent crackdown on Hong Kong -- is making that nearly impossible. "We now know the way authoritarian regimes treat their people all too often. And that's what we're seeing in China today."

The cultural genocide, Pompeo agreed, "has only escalated, and we do all that we can diplomatically to call out this misbehavior. You mentioned the action that we took last week. It wasn't just the State Department -- it was other government agencies as well, making it clear that businesses that are connected to this activity, whether that is the forced sterilization or the forced abortions, these are the kind of things that you remember reading about from the worst times of the last century, businesses that are connected that will be held to account when they will be held responsible for their actions."

How the administration does that, he explained, is still open for debate. "We want to put them on notice first. We want that each company to make its own decision. We watch American businesses claim that they are good stewards, working not only for profit, but for good outcomes and for the protection of human rights and decency." But, he argued, "any business leader who says that they stand for those things that we all care about and who is engaged in activities that are connected to this Chinese Communist Party activity in Xinjiang, can't hold those two thoughts in their head at the same time. And the United States isn't going to permit them to continue."

Of course, the irony is, 20 years ago, the argument for giving China permanent most favored nation status was because people thought that our economic partnership would bring about a greater appreciation for human rights and freedom. But unfortunately, as some of those businesses benefit from the human rights abuses, the forced labor in China, we realize it might have been the reverse. Sadly, many of these Fortune 500 international companies may have been more influenced by China than China has been influenced by them.

That experiment, Mike said, "just didn't work... And that means the United States has to take a different path. President Trump's laid that path out pretty clearly." To both sides, he would argue, "This is not partisan. Republican and Democrat presidents before him allowed China to engage in trade relationship with United States, and it caused working people all across the United States to lose their jobs. And we can now see not only was there that economic damage done to the United States, but the people inside of China weren't treated properly as well. Twin evils."

There are other federal entities involved in the corporate advisory last week, including the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security. And they're all, essentially, putting these businesses on notice that ignorance is no excuse. They will be held accountable if they're benefiting from the atrocities that China is engaging in. Some CEOs, Pompeo pointed out, want to do what's right. "A number of companies already have reached out to us and said, 'Hey, we're not sure where [this is] in our supply chain.' Sometimes it's more complicated than one might think. So we try to help them figure their way through it... But many companies have come and said, 'We want to comply. We want to get this right. We don't want to have anything to do with this... Can you help us?'"

Others have been more difficult. And that's where we come in. "Consumers make decisions about the companies they purchase products from," the secretary urged. "They should all be aware that this kind of activity is taking place." The goal, he said, is to raise awareness "all across the world, not just in the United States, but everywhere, that freedom-loving people simply want every human being to have the basic unalienable rights to which the Lord has entitled them."