US chipmaker Intel has removed references to China’s Xinjiang in its annual letter to suppliers after previously telling them to avoid the region.
The move comes weeks after the world’s largest chipmaker was forced to apologize in China after breaking out on May 23.
Suppliers were “required to ensure that their supply chain does not use workers or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region” after restrictions were imposed by “multiple governments,” the letter said.
The letter came after the US passed a law banning imports from the Xinjiang region, which also required companies to prove that imports were not made using forced labor from the region.
A review of the letter from Intel posted on its website Jan. 11 found this paragraph missing, Reuters reported.
The letter now prohibits “any trafficked or involuntary work such as forced, bonded, prison, contract or slave labor in your extended supply chains.”
The reference to Xinjiang was removed after the company apologized on December 23.
In its apology, the company said it regretted “the difficulties” and that the letter caused “concern to our valued Chinese partners.”
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal On Monday, the company announced that it “recently issued a statement in China to address concerns from our stakeholders there about the way we have communicated certain legal requirements and guidelines with our global supplier network.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced the law banning imports from the Chinese region, slammed Intel after the company reported the removal of references to Xinjiang in its letter.
“Intel’s cowardice is another predictable consequence of its economic dependence on China,” Rubio said in a statement on Monday.
“Instead of apologizing and censoring themselves, companies should move their supply chains to countries that do not use slave labor or commit genocide.”
“If companies like Intel continue to cover up the facts about US law just to appease the Chinese Communist Party, then they should not be eligible for any CHIPS funding.” [Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors] Law.”
China has been criticized by human rights groups for allegedly violating Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang through mass sterilization campaigns and forced labor practices. The UN has repeatedly expressed concern about conditions facing Uyghurs, which critics say amounts to cultural genocide.
The country has denied allegations of wrongdoing and warned Intel last month not to make such allegations.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, urged Intel to “respect facts and distinguish right from wrong”.
“So-called forced labor and other allegations against Xinjiang are completely lies fabricated by anti-Chinese forces,” Mr. Zhao said.
The company has also faced backlash from Chinese state media and social media platforms.
Other global companies such as H&M and Nike have also faced calls for boycotts in China because of their comments on Xinjiang.
Last week, Tesla faced appeals to shut down a showroom it had opened in the region.