According to a congressional report published on June 22, Temu, an online retailer from China known for its tagline “Shop like a billionaire,” has been implicated in exposing consumers to products manufactured using forced labor in China.
The report, titled “Fast Fashion and the Uyghur Genocide: Interim Findings,” was issued by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and states, “American consumers should be aware that there is a significant risk of Temu’s supply chains being tainted by forced labor.”
It further highlights that Temu lacks a robust system to ensure compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).
Consequently, shipments from Temu containing goods produced with forced labor are likely consistently entering the United States, thereby violating the UFLPA.
The UFLPA, enacted in June 2022, prohibits imports from Xinjiang, a region in western China unless companies can demonstrate that their products were not manufactured using forced labor.
Tragically, more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are currently held in Chinese internment camps, where they endure sexual abuse, torture, forced labor, forced abortion, forced sterilization, and political indoctrination.
The U.S. government has classified the Chinese regime’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the committee’s chairman, expressed his dismay at the findings, stating, “These findings are alarming: Temu has shown little effort in ensuring its supply chains are free from exploitative labor.”
He directed his criticism towards both Temu and another Chinese online retailer, Shein.
Furthermore, Rep. Gallagher highlighted that Temu and Shein have been capitalizing on a loophole in the import regulations, exploiting it to avoid import taxes and evade scrutiny for the millions of products they sell to the American market.
He emphasized the urgency of addressing this loophole, as it creates an unfair advantage for these companies while placing American businesses at a disadvantage.
Rep. Gallagher stressed the need to thoroughly examine this issue to level the playing field for American companies.
Shein responded to The Associated Press with a statement asserting the company’s commitment to complying with customs and import laws in all countries.
They emphasized that they have established a robust system to ensure compliance with U.S. law and stated their “zero tolerance” policy towards forced labor.
In February, three senators addressed a letter to Shein’s CEO, expressing concerns about the possibility of the company’s apparel being manufactured using cotton sourced from Xinjiang.
Recently, bipartisan bills were introduced in the House and Senate to amend the de minimis exception.
On June 14, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the De Minimis Reciprocity Act of 2023.
The following day, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Import Security and Fairness Act. In contrast, Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a companion version of the legislation in the House.
As per the report, a staggering 685 million shipments entered the United States in 2022 under the de minimis provision of customs law. This provision exempts shipments up to $800 from duty and tax obligations.
The report suggests that Temu and Shein, combined, likely accounted for over 30 percent of all global de minimis shipments into the United States during the previous year.
“These preliminary and interim findings shed light on Temu’s failure to maintain any substantial compliance program and reveal the significant extent to which both Shein and Temu utilize the de minimis provision,” the report states.
These revelations raise grave concerns regarding the ongoing presence of products made with forced labor contaminating imports into the United States.
Temu, which Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings own, operates alongside another e-commerce platform called Pinduoduo. Temu was launched in the United States in September 2022 and boasted a substantial network of over 80,000 suppliers. It has gained significant popularity, becoming one of the most frequently downloaded apps on both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.
An advocacy group based in Washington, The Campaign for Uyghurs, expressed gratitude to Baldwin and Cassidy via Twitter, commending their legislation and urging its swift passage.
The group emphasized that the bill introduced by the two senators would close a trade loophole that currently allows products made using slave labor to reach U.S. consumers, despite the UFLPA (Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act).