WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to suspend the sale of many offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia approved under the Trump administration, but it will allow the sale of other matériel that can be construed to have a defensive purpose, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
The plan, which was briefed to Congress last week, is part of an administration review of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that the White House announced soon after President Biden’s inauguration.
The original sales were met with strong opposition last year from Democrats in Congress, who are angry over the countries’ involvement in the war in Yemen and wary of the transfer of advanced military technology to authoritarian Middle Eastern states with ties to China.
The Biden administration will approve $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, according to a State Department spokesman, including F-35 fighter jets and armed Reaper drones. Biden administration officials signaled at the time of the review that those arms, sold to the Emirates soon after it had signed a diplomatic agreement with Israel brokered by the Trump administration, were likely to be approved.
killings of civilians, including many children, because of the use of such bombs by the Saudi-led coalition.
Raytheon Company, the biggest supplier of the bombs, lobbied the Trump administration to continue the sales, despite a growing outcry from humanitarian groups, members of Congress and some in the State Department.
The suspension does not cover sales of any other kinds of weapons to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said. Weapons used by helicopters would still be permitted, as well as ground-to-ground munitions and small arms. Electronics equipment, including jamming technology, would also be permitted. The Saudi military receives almost all its weapons from the United States.
formally notified lawyers about the decision, which officials say was made this year as part of a lawsuit opposing the agreement brought by the nonprofit New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs.
The Emirates played a big role in the Yemen war but stepped back recently. As part of negotiations last year to try to persuade the Emirates to normalize relations with Israel, the Trump administration told Emirati officials that it would accelerate approval of sales of F-35 fighter jets and drones.
U.S. officials said on Wednesday that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken received the report this week from other offices in the State Department, and that he was expected to approve it. The report would then go to the National Security Council for final approval.
“I and many other House members remain concerned about the proposed sale of $23 billion in arms to the U.A.E.,” said Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said he had “many questions about any decision by the Biden administration to go forward with the Trump administration’s proposed transfers” of the fighter jets, drones and munitions to the Emirates.
Israeli officials and some members of Congress have expressed concerns that the sales of F-35s would weaken what they called Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in the region, and that Congress requires presidential administrations to maintain it as a matter of law. Israel is currently the only country in the region with F-35s.
Other U.S. officials have been concerned about selling the F-35, one of the military’s most advanced pieces of hardware, to the United Arab Emirates when it is developing a closer relationship with China, which is notorious for technological espionage. American officials are worried about the radar and stealth abilities of F-35s and some drone technology, among other things.
Ms. Fontenrose added that some officials had additional concerns that the Emirates might employ American-made weapons, including Reaper drones, in the Libyan civil war, where it has intervened. She said the Emirates had provided the Trump administration with “assurances” on that front.
The State Department official, who requested anonymity to discuss policies that had not been officially announced, noted that it would take years to complete the Emirati arms deal and that during that period the administration would ensure that the country was living up to obligations, such as to protect American technology and to ensure that U.S. arms were not used in contexts that violate human rights and the laws of conflict.
Mr. Meeks echoed that point. “Fortunately, none of these transfers would occur anytime soon,” he said, “so there will be ample time for Congress to review whether these transfers should go forward and what restrictions and conditions would be imposed.”
Mr. Trump’s deal with the Emirates was approved soon after it had agreed to join the Abraham Accords, which normalized its diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time.
Some Democrats complained that the arms sales appeared to have been an inappropriate inducement for the Emirates to agree to the accords, which largely formalized a relationship that had grown steadily friendlier for many years.
“I still don’t believe it’s in our interest to fuel a spiraling arms race in the Middle East,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and a leading critic in Congress of the arms sales and of U.S. ties to Gulf Arab states. “I have requested a briefing from the administration regarding the status of the review of both the U.A.E. and Saudi sales.”
The Myanmar military’s bloody crackdown on the nationwide resistance to its rule showed no sign of easing on Sunday, with a human rights group reporting that the death toll across the country had passed 700.
The security forces killed 82 people in a single city on Friday, according to the group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been documenting the bloodshed since the military’s Feb. 1 coup. Soldiers used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to attack an organized group of protesters who had set up barricades to defend part of that city, Bago.
The military appears to be targeting centers of resistance around the country, using overwhelming power against largely untrained, poorly armed protesters. In Tamu, a town near the border with India, members of a local defense group similar to the one in Bago claimed to have killed some members of the security forces on Saturday after coming under attack.
The security forces’ assault in Bago, about 40 miles northeast of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was one of their most lethal yet. A reputable news outlet, Myanmar Now, also put the death toll in Bago at 82.
must cease immediately” and urged the military to let medical teams treat the wounded.
Members of the local defense organization in Tamu, which calls itself the Tamu Security Group, said that as in Bago, the security forces had attacked its defenses on Saturday with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Members of the security forces were killed in the ensuing clashes, according to two members of the defense group.
Their claims could not be independently confirmed. But killing multiple members of the security forces would be a significant development in the violence since the coup, which has been overwhelmingly one-sided.
A small, little-known rebel group called the Kuki National Army, one of many ethnic armed groups that have been fighting Myanmar’s military for years in regional conflicts, said it had helped the Tamu protesters battle the security forces on Saturday, but the extent of its involvement was unclear. Some leaders of the protest movement have called on rebel armies to join forces.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, called the trial “another example of the junta’s all-out effort to force people off the streets and crush the civil disobedience movement.”
Daw Aye Aye Thwin, whose son, Ko Bo Bo Thu, 27, is one of the two defendants in custody, said he was at home at the time of the killing and had nothing to do with it. She said she had not been able to see him since his arrest and learned of the sentence on Friday, a day after it was handed down.
“Now I feel like my world is gone,” she said. “I just want to appeal to the authorities not to kill my son.”
KAMPALA, Uganda — Bobi Wine’s eyes were bloodshot from little sleep. When he spoke, his thoughts trailed off, and his sentences sometimes lacked the precision and eloquence he employed while running for president. At times, he forgot to sip his coffee, even after bringing the mug to his lips.
Mr. Wine, 39, rose from a slum in Kampala, the capital, to become the foremost symbol of national resistance in Uganda, nicknamed the “Ghetto President.” But after an electrifying campaign that drew large crowds nationwide, the musician-turned-politician lost to President Yoweri Museveni in January’s election. He received 34 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s nearly 59 percent, according to Uganda’s electoral commission, despite accusations of vote tampering and rigging.
Now, three months after the end of a violent and bloody campaign season, Mr. Wine appeared nearly broken.
Among other things, Mr. Wine said his mind was on the government crackdown against his campaign, which started even before the election season and intensified in the weeks after the results were announced, when he filed a petition contesting them.
15-year-old nephew was kidnapped by unknown gunmen.
In his home, along a winding and potholed road named Freedom Drive, Mr. Wine was appraising the successes of his anti-government campaign while wondering how to build back an opposition movement that had been systemically assailed by Uganda’s president.
“Everything is worth freedom,” Mr. Wine said.
He was also quick to admit that his increasingly lonely and uphill fight had left him psychologically and physically exhausted. “It drains you when you do the right thing,” he said.
Mr. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, rose to fame as a dreadlocked artist whose music — a blend of dance hall, reggae and Afrobeat — drew a wide following and was featured in a Disney movie.
filed to run for president, he became the most potent challenger to Mr. Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986.
International Criminal Court, accusing the Ugandan government of human rights abuses against protesters, human rights lawyers and political figures, himself included. He also accused Mr. Museveni of trying to kill him.
“What is happening in Uganda seems to be a silent genocide,” Mr. Wine said.
In the streets of Kampala, Mr. Wine’s election posters remain on display, his serious face and raised fist still drawing support from his followers.
Sseguya Mukasa Kenneth, 27, knew Mr. Wine for years and even practiced boxing with him. In January, Mr. Kenneth was kidnapped and beaten by security officers, he said, and was offered money in exchange for spying on Mr. Wine, which he refused. Mr. Wine, he said, has shown that “the current generation is the hope for the future.”
The opposition leader has faced his own share of criticism, specifically his use of a bulletproof car and his decision to withdraw the petition challenging the election results.
Mr. Wine said the armored vehicle was meant to protect his life — he says he has survived three “assassination attempts” — and cited “bias” and “impunity” in the Supreme Court as the reasons for pulling the suit.
At one point during the interview, his 5-year-old daughter, Suubi Shine Nakaayi, approached him. Protectively clinging to him, she said: “I don’t want my father to go back to jail.”
Mr. Wine is also considering a return to the studio, though his longtime collaborator is in detention and his producer was injured in December.
“I have had to learn to proceed even when my friends are held back,” he said. “And the next time I am offered a louder microphone, which is the studio microphone, I will express exactly what’s on my mind.”
Mr. Kasato, the district councilor, said that plainclothes officers picked him up from a church meeting on Feb. 8, threw him, hooded, into a car and clobbered him.
He said the men asked him for the evidence of election rigging he’d collected, and whether he had sent it to Mr. Wine’s party. He said, yes, he had.
Mr. Kasato, a 47-year-old father of 11, said that while he was chained to the ceiling, his feet barely touching the ground, military officers whipped him with a wire and pulled at his skin with pliers.
“It was a big shock,” he said. “I was praying deeply that I really survive that torture.”
In late February, Mr. Kasato was charged with inciting violence during the November protests in which security forces killed dozens of people — accusations he denies. He has been released on bail, but said he was still in intense physical pain, and that his doctors advised he seek medical attention abroad.
Analysts say that Mr. Museveni, 76, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, is trying to avoid history repeating itself. He himself was a charismatic young upstart who accused his predecessor, Mr. Obote, of rigging an election, and led an armed rebellion that after five years managed to take power.
Mr. Wine, 39, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has become the face of this young movement, promising to shake up the country’s stifled politics. As his campaign gained ground last year, he was arrested and beaten and placed under de facto house arrest.
“We are seeing a movement toward full totalitarianism in this country,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a leading human rights lawyer. He was abducted last December and released, charged with money laundering after his legal advocacy group received a grant from American Jewish World Service, a New York-based nonprofit.
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Venezuela is waging its most concerted military campaign in years, targeting what it says is a criminal group operating within its border near Colombia but also sending an estimated 5,000 of its own civilians fleeing into the neighboring country.
The assault — which began with several days of airstrikes that security experts described as Venezuela’s largest use of firepower in decades — represents a significant departure from the largely hands-off approach it has long employed toward the illicit organizations that flourish along its border.
For years, officials in President Nicolás Maduro’s government have tolerated and sometimes even cooperated with these armed groups, many of them with roots in Colombia, as they moved drugs and other contraband between nations.
Now it has lashed out at one of them, though the reasons remain murky. Mr. Maduro has claimed in recent days that the attack reflects his government’s policy of “zero tolerance toward irregular Colombian armed groups.”
nine people whom the Venezuelan government considers to be guerrillas and two of its own personnel, the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, said.
Several Colombian rebel groups have operated in Venezuelan territory in recent years, including dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia who have refused to lay down their weapons following a 2016 peace deal.
The Venezuelan assault, centered around La Victoria, a town of about 10,000, has been aimed at a faction of FARC dissidents known as the Tenth Front, according to local residents, leading security experts to suggest they may have broken unwritten rules laid out by the Maduro government or its allies.
Fundaredes attributed to the FARC group.
the country’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, said. But the government has also sought to limit news coverage of the military campaign, according to Fundaredes.
On Wednesday in La Victoria, Venezuelan authorities detained two journalists with the Venezuelan channel NTN24 and two human rights activists with Fundaredes who had been trying to document the crisis. They were kept for a day before being released, according to family members and friends.
Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Americas deputy director at Human Rights Watch, called abuses documented by her organization as “a case study in the atrocities that the regime has been carrying out, and continues to carry out, with impunity.”
She continued: “This should be a wake up call for the International Criminal Court, which has the duty and the power to criminally investigate those who are ultimately responsible for the most heinous international crimes.”
Government-sponsored massacres became less frequent too. But a wave in the 1990s were mostly in countries that, like Myanmar, had histories of civil war, weak institutions, high poverty rates and politically powerful militaries — Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.
Though they largely failing to stop those killings as they happened, world leaders and institutions like the United Nations built systems to encourage democracy and avert future atrocities.
Myanmar, a pariah state that had sealed itself off from the world until reopening in 2011, didn’t much benefit from those efforts.
The country also missed out on a global change in how dictatorship works.
A growing number of countries have shifted toward systems where a strongman rises democratically but then consolidates power. These countries still hold elections and call themselves democracies, but heavily restrict freedoms and political rivals. Think Russia, Turkey or Venezuela.
“Repression in the last couple of years has actually gotten worse in dictatorships,” Dr. Frantz said. But large-scale crackdowns are rarer, she added, in part because “today’s dictators are getting savvier in how they oppress.”
Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protest movements demanding democracy or systemic change succeeded. But that number has since plummeted to a historic low of 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University.
Much of the change, Dr. Chenoweth wrote, came through something called “authoritarian learning.”
New-style dictators were wary of calling in the military, which might turn against them. And mass violence would shatter their democratic pretensions. So they developed practices to frustrate or fracture citizen movements: jailing protest leaders, stirring up nationalism, flooding social media with disinformation.
TOKYO — Last summer, Halmat Rozi, a Uyghur Muslim living in Japan, received a video call from his brother in China’s western Xinjiang region. His brother said he had someone he wanted Mr. Rozi to meet: a Chinese security officer.
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had been invited to Japan, and the officer had some questions. Were Mr. Rozi and his fellow Uyghur activists planning protests? Who were the group’s leaders? What work were they doing? If Mr. Rozi cooperated, his family in China would be well cared for, the officer assured him on a second video call.
The officer’s intent was clear — to discourage Mr. Rozi from doing anything that might hurt China’s reputation in Japan. The warning had the opposite effect. Mr. Rozi had invited Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, to surreptitiously record the second call, which was later broadcast to millions of viewers.
The footage provided a rare look at Beijing’s efforts to cultivate and intimidate Chinese ethnic minorities abroad, and it has contributed to a growing awareness in Japan of China’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
put in re-education camps in recent years in what critics say is an effort to erase their ethnic identity. Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 industrial powers that did not participate in coordinated sanctions imposed on Chinese officials last month over the situation in Xinjiang, which the U.S. government has declared a genocide.
signed a joint statement criticizing China over its “coercion and destabilizing behavior” in the Asia-Pacific region and its violations of the “international order.”
H&M learned last monthwhen it became the target of a nationalist boycott in China for expressing concern about accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang’s cotton industry.
By contrast,the Japanese retail company Muji, which has more than 200 stores in mainland China, recently declared that it would continue to use cotton from Xinjiang despite the accusations.
Still, despite the economic and geopolitical risks, a growing group of lawmakers are calling for Japan to defend Uyghur rights. Members of Parliament are working on legislation that would give the government powers to impose sanctions over human rights abuses. And a broad cross section of Japanese politicians were pushing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to cancel Mr. Xi’s state visit to Japan before it was delayed for a second time by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Uyghur community in Japan, though estimated to be fewer than 3,000 people, has become more visible in the past year as it presses the government to act. Mr. Rozi’s story has played no small part. Since the broadcast last year of his call with the Chinese security officer, Mr. Rozi — a fluent Japanese speaker — has appeared in the news media and before a parliamentary group to discuss the abuses in Xinjiang.
The stories of other Uyghurs have also found a wider Japanese audience in recent months, including in a best-selling graphic novel featuring testimony from women who had been imprisoned in the Xinjiang camps.
As awareness has increased in Japan, concerns about Chinese human rights abuses have grown across the political spectrum.
For years, complaints about China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities were considered the purview of Japan’s hawkish right wing. Centrists and those on the left often saw them as pretexts for replacing Japan’s postwar pacifism with the pursuit of regional hegemony.
But China’s behavior in Xinjiang has forced a reassessment among many liberals. Even Japan’s Communist Party is calling it “a serious violation of human rights.”
“China says this is an internal problem, but we have to deal with it as an international problem,” Akira Kasai, a member of Parliament and one of the party’s top strategists, said in a recent interview.
Last summer, nearly 40 members of the Japanese legislature formed a committee for rethinking Tokyo’s relationship with Beijing. In February, a longstanding conservative parliamentary committee dedicated to promoting Uyghur rights expanded its membership to include lawmakers in the country’s center-left opposition parties.
The groups, said Shiori Yamao, an opposition lawmaker, are pushing the legislature to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. government, as well as parliaments in Canada and the Netherlands, by declaring China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide.
Members of Parliament say they are also working on a Japanese version of the Global Magnitsky Act, the American law used to impose sanctions on government officials around the world involved in directing human rights abuses.
It is unclear how much traction the efforts will get. Mr. Rozi does not believe that lawmakers will go so far as to accuse China of genocide, but he is hopeful that Japan will impose sanctions.
Mr. Rozi came to Japan in 2005 for a graduate program in engineering, eventually starting a construction company and opening a kebab shop in Chiba Prefecture, on Tokyo’s outskirts. He was not political, he said, and steered clear of any activities that might be viewed unfavorably by the Chinese government.
Everything changed in 2018, after he learned that several members of his wife’s family had been detained. Communication with his own family had also become nearly impossible amid the security clampdown.
The experience convinced Mr. Rozi that he needed to speak out, and he soon began participating in protests calling for China to close the camps. Before long, he had become a prominent voice in Japan’s Uyghur community, making media appearances, meeting with politicians and running seminars on the situation in Xinjiang. When he received the surprise phone call from his brother, he knew that his activism had caught the attention of Chinese officials.
Since Mr. Rozi’s appearance on the Japanese public broadcaster, the Chinese government has made no further attempts to contact him, he said. Phone calls to his family have gone unanswered.
He is afraid for his relatives. But speaking out has been worth it, he said: “Now pretty much everyone here knows about the Uyghurs’ problems.”
WASHINGTON — Women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive care is a global human right that will be monitored by the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declared on Tuesday, reversing a Trump administration policy that had overlooked discrimination or denials of women seeking sexual health services worldwide.
The announcement was one of several departures Mr. Blinken made from the previous administration’s approach as the State Department issued its annual report on human rights violations, even while he similarly condemned abuses and state-sanctioned oppression from China to Syria to Venezuela that have continued for years.
The report was completed during the Trump administration and, Mr. Blinken said, did not include examples of women who were refused health care and family planning information in nearly 200 countries and territories in 2020. He has directed officials to compile that data and identify violators this year “because women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” Mr. Blinken told reporters at the department.
Mr. Blinken also announced that he had dismantled an advisory committee, set up by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, that had prioritized religious liberties and property rights among universal freedoms. Critics of the panel had accused Mr. Pompeo of using it to promote his evangelical Christian beliefs and conservative politics.
had approved the assassination, although the United States has not announced sanctions or other penalties against him.
Prince Mohammed was a key ally to President Donald J. Trump, who had refused to condemn the rising Saudi leader for the death of Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia. The human rights reports issued by the State Department have also stopped short of directly accusing the crown prince, although Tuesday’s review did note the arrest and abduction by Saudi security forces of the activist Amani al-Zain in May, after she referred to Prince Mohammed as “father of the saw” during a video chat months earlier. Mr. Khashoggi was dismembered by a bone saw when he went to pick up documents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Although career diplomats took pains to describe the report as a matter-of-fact rundown of human rights around the world, many of its conclusions divided American activists along political lines.
“It’s unfortunate that the many pro-life, pro-religious freedom positions that President Trump had advanced internationally are being rolled back by the Biden administration,” said Travis Weber, a vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian organization.
Mr. Pompeo declared Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs — including forced sterilization and internment camps — a genocide, a position Mr. Blinken has retained.
Mr. Blinken called the Chinese abuses in Xinjiang evidence that “the trend lines on human rights continue to move in the wrong direction,” and he cited violence or oppression in Myanmar, Russia, Uganda and the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia as other examples.
All are “indications that the Biden administration is taking seriously its commitment to hold both allies and adversaries to a high standard on human rights,” said Sarah Holewinski, the director of the Human Rights Watch office in Washington.
She called the State Department’s return to monitoring reproductive health access for women and girls “a particularly big deal” after it had been cast aside.
“When women die from preventable pregnancy-related causes, there are likely to exist policies and laws that undervalued their life,” Ms. Holewinski said.
Medical workers and reproductive rights activists had long criticized the Trump administration for refusing to fund health clinics that provide abortions or otherwise support women who needed care. That has led to fewer health providers in some of the world’s neediest places, even for women seeking other kinds of medical attention, just as the coronavirus spread around the globe.
As a matter of international law, Mr. Weber said, “there is no right to abortion.”
Mr. Blinken did not specifically mention abortion in his remarks about protecting women’s access to family planning care. But he also noted the strain that the pandemic had placed on women, racial and ethnic minorities, and others based on their disabilities or sexual orientation.
Erosions of human rights, he said, “are being worsened by Covid-19, which autocratic governments have used as a pretext to target their critics.”
Last week, calls for the cancellation of H&M and other Western brands went out across Chinese social media as human rights campaigns collided with cotton sourcing and political gamesmanship. Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on and how it may affect everything from your T-shirts to your trench coats.
What’s all this I’m hearing about fashion brands and China? Did someone make another dumb racist ad?
No, it’s much more complicated than an offensive and obvious cultural faux pas. The issue centers on the Xinjiang region of China and allegations of forced labor in the cotton industry — allegations denied by the Chinese government. Last summer, many Western brands issued statements expressing concerns about human rights in their supply chain. Some even cut ties with the region all together.
Now, months later, the chickens are coming home to roost: Chinese netizens are reacting with fury, charging the allegations are an offense to the state. Leading Chinese e-commerce platforms have kicked major international labels off their sites, and a slew of celebrities have denounced their former foreign employers.
growing political and economic implications. On the one hand, as the pandemic continues to roil global retail, consumers have become more attuned to who makes their clothes and how they are treated, putting pressure on brands to put their values where their products are. One the other, China has become an evermore important sales hub to the fashion industry, given its scale and the fact that there is less disruption there than in other key markets, like Europe. Then, too, international politicians are getting in on the act, imposing bans and sanctions. Fashion has become a diplomatic football.
This is a perfect case study of what happens when market imperatives come up against global morality.
Tell me more about Xinjiang and why it is so important.
Xinjiang is a region in northwest China that happens to produce about a fifth of the world’s cotton. It is home to many ethnic groups, especially the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority. Though it is officially the largest of China’s five autonomous regions, which in theory means it has more legislative self-control, the central government has been increasingly involved in the area, saying it must exert its authority because of local conflicts with the Han Chinese (the ethnic majority) who have been moving into the region. This has resulted in draconian restrictions, surveillance, criminal prosecutions and forced-labor camps.
OK, and what about the Uyghurs?
A predominantly Muslim Turkic group, the Uyghur population within Xinjiang numbers just over 12 million, according to official figures released by Chinese authorities. As many as one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been retrained to become model workers, obedient to the Chinese Communist Party via coercive labor programs.
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Axios and others published reports that connected Uyghurs in forced detention to the supply chains of many of the world’s best-known fashion retailers, including Adidas, Lacoste, H&M, Ralph Lauren and the PVH Corporation, which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, many of those brands reassessed their relationships with Xinjiang-based cotton suppliers.
banned all imports of cotton from the region, as well as products made from the material and declared what was happening “genocide.” At the time, the Workers Rights Consortium estimated that material from Xinjiang was involved in more than 1.5 billion garments imported annually by American brands and retailers.
That’s a lot! How do I know if I am wearing a garment made from Xinjiang cotton?
You don’t. The supply chain is so convoluted and subcontracting so common that often it’s hard for brands themselves to know exactly where and how every component of their garments is made.
So if this has been an issue for over a year, why is everyone in China freaking out now?
It isn’t immediately clear. One theory is that it is because of the ramp-up in political brinkmanship between China and the West. On March 22, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United States announced sanctions on Chinese officials in an escalating row over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Not long after, screenshots from a statement posted in September 2020 by H&M citing “deep concerns” about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, and confirming that the retailer had stopped buying cotton from growers in the region, began circulating on Chinese social media. The fallout was fast and furious. There were calls for a boycott, and H&M products were soon missing from China’s most popular e-commerce platforms, Alibaba Group’s Tmall and JD.com. The furor was stoked by comments on the microblogging site Sina Weibo from groups like the Communist Youth League, an influential Communist Party organization.
Within hours, other big Western brands like Nike and Burberry began trending for the same reason.
And it’s not just consumers who are up in arms: Influencers and celebrities have also been severing ties with the brands. Even video games are bouncing virtual “looks” created by Burberry from their platforms.
one second (there were 100 made). That’s why H&M worked with Victoria Song, Nike with Wang Yibo and Burberry with Zhou Dongyu.
But Chinese influencers and celebrities are also sensitive to pleasing the central government and publicly affirming their national values, often performatively choosing their country over contracts.
In 2019, for example, Yang Mi, the Chinese actress and a Versace ambassador, publicly repudiated the brand when it made the mistake of creating a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries, seeming to dismiss the “One China” policy and the central government’s sovereignty. Not long afterward, Coach was targeted after making a similar mistake, creating a tee that named Hong Kong and Taiwan separately; Liu Wen, the Chinese supermodel, immediately distanced herself from the brand.
Tencent removed two Burberry-designed “skins” — outfits worn by video game characters that the brand had introduced with great fanfare — from its popular title Honor of Kings as a response to news that the brand had stopped buying cotton produced in the Xinjiang region. The looks had been available for less than a week.
So this is hitting both fast fashion and the high end. How much of the fashion world is involved?
Potentially, most of it. So far Adidas, Nike, Converse and Burberry have all been swept up in the crisis. Even before the ban, additional companies like Patagonia, PVH, Marks & Spencer and the Gap had announced that they did not source material from Xinjiang and had officially taken a stance against human rights abuses.
removed their policies against forced labor from their websites.
That seems squirrelly. Is this likely to escalate?
Brands seem to be concerned that the answer is yes, since, apparently fearful of offending the Chinese government, some companies have proactively announced that they will continue buying cotton from Xinjiang. Hugo Boss, the German company whose suiting is a de facto uniform for the financial world, posted a statement on Weibo saying, “We will continue to purchase and support Xinjiang cotton” (even though last fall the company had announced it was no longer sourcing from the region). Muji, the Japanese brand, is also proudly touting its use of Xinjiang cotton on its Chinese websites, as is Uniqlo.
Wait … I get playing possum, but why would a company publicly pledge its allegiance to Xinjiang cotton?
It’s about the Benjamins, buddy. According to a report from Bain & Company released last December, China is expected to be the world’s largest luxury market by 2025. Last year it was the only part of the world to report year on year growth, with the luxury market reaching 44 billion euros ($52.2 billion).
Is anyone going to come out of this well?
One set of winners could be the Chinese fashion industry, which has long played second fiddle to Western brands, to the frustration of many businesses there. Shares in Chinese apparel groups and textile companies with ties to Xinjiang rallied this week as the backlash gained pace. And more than 20 Chinese brands publicly made statements touting their support for Chinese cotton.
NAIROBI, Kenya — After months of denial, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia admitted this week that Eritrean troops had been fighting in Tigray, the war-torn northern Ethiopian region where the brutal conflict between pro-government and local fighters has become a byword for atrocities against civilians.
On Friday, under mounting American and international pressure, Mr. Abiy went one step further and announced that the Eritrean soldiers had agreed to go home.
Mr. Abiy’s statement, issued after a meeting with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, offered a faint glimmer of hope amid a stream of horrific reports about widespread looting, massacres and sexual violence in Tigray.
soldiers from Eritrea — even as Mr. Isaias, the dictatorial leader of the notoriously secretive country, denied that his troops were even present in Tigray.
Mr. Abiy flew to meet Mr. Isaias on Thursday, days after an envoy sent by President Biden pressed the Ethiopian leader to halt the carnage, and to reinforce American calls for an immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops.The United States has publicly called for Eritrean soldiers to be withdrawn from Tigray.
On Friday Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Ghebremeskel, appeared to confirm Mr. Abiy’s declaration that an Eritrean troop withdrawal had been agreed upon. Public statements from both governments “underline full agreement and consensus on all issues discussed,” he said in a text message after Mr. Abiy had left the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
Mr. Abiy launched a military campaign in Tigray on Nov. 4, accusing rebellious Tigrayan leaders of orchestrating an attack on a major military base and trying to topple the federal government.
As the fighting gathered pace, reports of gross abuses against civilians began to emerge from Tigray. Ethiopian soldiers, allied fighters from ethnic Ahmara militias, and fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front all faced accusations.
But United Nations officials and human rights groups singled out Eritrean troops for many of the worst violations. Last weekend, Mr. Abiy spent five hours in talks with U.S. Senator Chris Coons, who had been sent to Ethiopia by President Biden to convey his alarm at the deteriorating situation.
In a briefing to reporters on Thursday, Mr. Coons said that the talks were “forthright” at times, and that Mr. Abiy had reiterated his promise to investigate human rights abuses in Tigray, including “credible reports of sexual violence as a tool of war.”
But Mr. Abiy has fallen short on such commitments before, Mr. Coons said, and the United States intends to keep up the pressure.
“It’s actions that are going to matter,” he said.
On Friday a State Department spokeswoman welcomed Ethiopia’s announcement, calling it “an important step” toward de-escalation.
In a mark of the impunity that has come to characterize the Tigrayan conflict, Ethiopian soldiers dragged civilians from a bus on a major road in Tigray and executed four of them in front of aid workers from Doctors Without Borders, the group said in a statement Thursday.
a landmark peace deal soon after Mr. Abiy came to power.
The pact earned Mr. Abiy the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and helped Mr. Isaias, one of the world’s most repressive leaders, to emerge from international isolation. After the Tigray war erupted in November, though, critics said the two leaders were mostly united by their shared hostility toward the leaders of Tigray.
It was unclear on Friday whether Mr. Abiy’s announcement signaled a potential breakthrough in ending the fighting in Tigray or another feint by two leaders under international pressure.
In his statement, Mr. Abiy said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces “out of the Ethiopian border,” where, effective immediately, Ethiopian soldiers were to assume border guarding duties.
But it was unclear if that included Eritrean troops stationed deep inside Tigray, where many of the worst atrocities have occurred.
Amnesty International has blamed Eritrean forces for the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Axum, a city in northern Tigray. Sexual violence survivors from Tigray have blamed horrific assaults on Eritrean troops.
over 500 rape cases have been reported at five clinics in Tigray, although the actual number is likely far higher.
“Women say they have been raped by armed actors, they also told stories of gang rape, rape in front of family members, and men being forced to rape their own family members under the threat of violence,” the official, Wafaa Said, said.
Exactly how many Eritrean troops are stationed inside Tigray and where is unclear. Much of the region remains out of bounds for aid workers and reporters, and sporadic fighting continues in rural and mountainous areas.
Still, the departure of all Eritrean troops would likely pose a serious military challenge to Mr. Abiy.
The Ethiopian army fractured in the early days of the war, when hundreds and possibly more Ethiopian soldiers defected to the rebel side, according to Western officials. Since then, Mr. Abiy has regained control of a swath of Tigray with help from his allies — ethnic Amhara fighters and soldiers from Eritrea.
Were the Eritreans to leave en masse, some analysts say, government forces might struggle to maintain their grip on the parts of Tigray that they now control.