US chipmaker Intel was forced to apologise in China after it faced backlash for its letter asking suppliers to not source products or labour from the Xinjiang region over the alleged abuse of Uyghur minorities.
The world’s biggest chipmaker joined a growing number of foreign brands in telling suppliers that they are “required to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labour or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region".
It said it was in line with the restrictions imposed by “multiple governments” in what it called to be an annual letter in December, referring to the restrictions imposed by the US government.
China has been facing mounting criticism over the allegation of abuse of the Uyghur population, an ethnic Muslim minority in the north-western region of Xinjiang.
Human rights groups have accused China of widespread human rights abuses and allegations of forced labour camps and mass sterilisation, which Beijing has denied.
In the latest action, the US has banned imports of goods from Xinjiang by passing a bill that required the companies to prove that the imported goods are not produced with forced labour from the region.
Intel on Thursday said in a statement that they “deeply regret” that their letter has caused "concerns among our cherished Chinese partners.”
"We apologise for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public," the company said.
The apology from a major US company came after facing fury from Chinese state media and foreign ministry.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian urged Intel to "respect facts and tell right from wrong" while maintaining its stance of denying the accusations.
"So-called forced labour and other allegations on Xinjiang are completely lies concocted by anti-China forces," Mr Zhao Lijian.
The Global Times, a Chinese state media outlet run by the Communist Party, slammed Intel, saying it was biting the hand that feeds it” and described the letter as "arrogant and vicious”.
“What we need to do is to make it increasingly expensive for companies to offend China so their losses outweigh their gains,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
Following public outrage, pop singer Wang Junkai, popularly known as Karry Wang, announced on Wednesday he was withdrawing from his role as “brand ambassador” for Intel‘s Core line of processor chips, saying that “national interests exceed everything.”
Global Times called the Chinese singer’s move a “fresh warning siren to Intel and other foreign companies that seek to undermine China’s core interests while also trying to profit from the vast Chinese market”.
Other major brands such as H&M and Nike has faced similar boycott calls and criticism in the past for raising the issue of treatment of Uighur Muslims or even by suggesting banning the use of material produced by the labour in the region.
The stand by companies prompted singers and other celebrities to cut ties with the foreign brands, giving up millions of dollars in income to protect their careers from official retaliation.
Apart from being a major cotton producer, the Xinjiang region is a major supplier of silica used in making computer chips. Intel, which has its research facility in Beijing, has its chip factory in Dalian in China’s north east -- the company’s only unit in Asia and one of four outside the US.
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