US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has blasted Intel for scrubbing any mentions of China’s Xinjiang region from an annual letter to its suppliers after Chinese netizens threatened on social media to boycott the US chip behemoth.
In an earlier version of the letter, published on Intel’s website on December 23, the semiconductor giant reminded its suppliers to make sure they don’t use any labor nor source any goods or services from Xinjiang due to trade restrictions imposed by “multiple governments.”
By that, they mean restrictions placed by the US government, among others, due to what more and more clearly appears to be rampant human-rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the region.
Netizens on Weibo, one of the biggest Chinese microblogging sites, slammed Intel over this letter, and sided with the Chinese government, which denies cracking down on or abusing the ethnic minority group. Many threatened to boycott Intel. The corporation apologized over the backlash and removed all mention of Xinjiang in its letter [PDF].
“Intel’s cowardice is yet another predictable consequence of economic reliance on China,” Senator Rubio said in a statement on Monday. “Instead of humiliating apologies and self-censorship, companies should move their supply chains to countries that do not use slave labor or commit genocide.”
He also warned that if semiconductor companies “obscure the facts about US law just to appease the Chinese Communist Party,” they should not be able to receive any government funding under the CHIPS Act. The CHIPS Act passed in the Senate in June, last year, and proposes to spend $52bn to boost chip R&D and manufacturing in America as the global shortage in semiconductors continues to affect businesses across the world.
An Intel spokesperson declined to comment to The Register on Rubio’s statement. “With regard to the letter, we will continue to ensure that our global sourcing complies with applicable laws and regulations in the US and in other jurisdictions where we operate,” the spokesperson told us.
Intel isn’t the only biz to land itself in hot water both back home and in China over Xinjiang. Walmart’s subsidiary Sam’s Club was accused by Beijing of “stupidity and shorted-sightedness” after it was reported that the US retailer had pulled products sourced from Xinjiang, according to Reuters.
And Tesla was criticized by human-rights activists for opening a new showroom in the region. ®