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Top brands accused of using forced Chinese labour

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AFP

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China is transferring tens of thousands of Uighur detainees out of internment camps and into factories that supply some of the world’s leading brands, an Australian think tank said Monday.

Top global brands such as Apple, BMW and Sony have been accused of getting supplies from factories using the forced labour, an explosive allegation that could reverberate in boardrooms across the world.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the Chinese government has transferred 80,000 or more Uighurs out of camps in Xinjiang and into factories across the country.

“Uighurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors,” the think tank said.

“Some factories across China are using forced Uighur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain.”
The brands, it added, included “Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen”.

“Companies using forced Uighur labour in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labour or mandate disclosure of forced labour supply chain risks,” the report said.

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“The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections.”

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AFP has contacted the firms for a response to the claims.

An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in internment camps in Xinjiang.

After initially denying their existence, Beijing cast the facilities as “vocational education centres” where “students” learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.

Officially, the Chinese government says it is transferring “surplus” Xinjiang labour to other regions in the name of poverty alleviation.

According to official news agency Xinhua, more than 25,000 workers from Xinjiang were slated to be transferred “inland” in 2019.

China’s foreign ministry and the Xinjiang government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

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Trump signs USD2 trillion recovery plan as US virus cases skyrocket : The Standard

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US President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion rescue package into law to provide economic relief amid the coronavirus outbreak. [AFP / JIM WATSON]

President Donald Trump signed into law Friday the $2 trillion rescue plan to salvage a US economy crippled by the novel coronavirus, on a day the nation recorded more than 100,000 confirmed cases of virus infections.

Hours earlier, the House of Representatives passed the package, with lawmakers uniting to greenlight the mega-plan as the world-topping number of US COVID-19 infections surged past 104,000, including 1,693 deaths.
Trump’s signature brings an end to the dramatic, weeklong legislative saga on Capitol Hill, and triggers the distribution of millions of relief checks of up to $3,400 for an average American family of four.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said.

SEE ALSO :Impeachment vote set for Wednesday

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses. That’s what this is all about.”
The president also took the long-called-for step of invoking the Defense Production Act to compel auto giant General Motors to quickly honor its commitment to making ventilators, machines crucial to keeping critically ill coronavirus patients alive but which are in short supply in hospitals.
“GM was wasting time,” the president alleged.

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The need is acute in New York state, the US hotbed of the epidemic where 44,635 infections have been confirmed.
The death toll there increased Friday to 519 — up from 385 the previous day — but Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed optimism that the increase in the hospitalization rate has slowed.

SEE ALSO :Trump says Zuckerberg told him he’s Facebook’s ‘number one’

Cuomo announced the creation of temporary hospitals in large facilities in each borough of New York City — including at a horse racing track in Queens — in the model of an already-constructed space in Manhattan’s Javits Center.
The bill pumps $100 billion into hospitals and health facilities in critical need of medical gear like personal protective equipment and intensive care beds, creates a $500 billion loan reserve for large corporations including airlines, and provides $377 billion in grants to small businesses.
It also dramatically expands unemployment assistance, aid that will cushion the blow for a staggering 3.3 million people who filed jobless claims in the week ending March 21.
Americans ‘can’t wait’
“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues shortly before the chamber passed the measure.

SEE ALSO :Thunberg, Trump to offer competing visions at climate-focused Davos

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Several lawmakers including top House Republican Kevin McCarthy hailed the measure as a critical lifeline for workers and small businesses.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged a speedy distribution of checks.
“Americans need that money now, they can’t wait for government to take three or four or six months like we normally do,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network, adding he expected direct deposits of the cash to arrive in three weeks.
US stocks sank Friday despite the legislative breakthrough. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 4.1 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 shed 3.4 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq tumbled 3.8 percent.
The Senate had passed the huge measure earlier this week.

SEE ALSO :Trump defense lawyers attack Bidens at impeachment trial

The vote in the House was notable for the implementation of social distancing rules that prevented lawmakers from all gathering on the floor, leading to unprecedented scenes of members sitting in the upper galleries to allow for sufficient spacing.
With the House in recess this week, leaders had wanted a quick voice vote requiring just a few members present.
But Republican Thomas Massie, who opposed the bill, threatened to stall the measure.
Ultimately the House defeated Massie’s maneuver and passed the bill but not before Trump savaged his fellow Republican on Twitter as a “third rate Grandstander.”
Pelosi said the $2 trillion rescue plan — the third and by far largest coronavirus legislative measure — will not be the end of government assistance to battered communities.
“We must advance a fourth bill to address continued needs,” she said, noting that state and local governments would need “vastly more” funding to address the crisis.


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China virus epicentre eases travel restrictions after lockdown : The Standard

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A woman wearing protective gear as she boards a train stopping at Wuhan, which has opened stations again to incoming passengers. [AFP / Hector RETAMAL]

The Chinese city of 11 million people that was Ground Zero for what became the global coronavirus pandemic partly reopened on Saturday after more than two months of almost total isolation.

Wuhan was placed under lockdown in January with residents forbidden to leave, roadblocks ring-fencing the city’s outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life.
But the major transport and industrial hub has now signalled the end of its long isolation, with state media showing the first officially sanctioned passenger train arriving back into the city just after midnight.
People are now allowed to enter but not leave, and many trains had been fully booked days in advance.

SEE ALSO :China virus cases spike, 17 new infections reported

AFP saw crowds of passengers arriving at Wuhan station on Saturday, most wheeling suitcases alongside them.
Some had managed to slip back into the city a day earlier on rail services that were stopping in the city — but nominally banned passengers from disembarking — as enforcement of the travel ban began to ease.
One woman who arrived on Friday said she and her daughter had been away from her husband for nearly 10 weeks.

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“As the train neared Wuhan, my child and I were both very excited,” the 36-year-old told AFP on Saturday.
“It felt like the train was moving faster than before, and my daughter said the driver must know we really want to go home.

SEE ALSO :China confirms virus spreading between humans

“She rushed toward her father, and watching them from behind I couldn’t help but cry,” she added.
Staff at Wuhan station were all clad in full protective gear with reception desks lined up ready to process returnees who had been overseas.
China is now battling to control a wave of imported cases as infections soar abroad.
As passengers lined up to exit the station Saturday — some wearing two face masks, gloves, face screens or full protective suits — a worker in a hazmat suit shouted for anyone returning from overseas to come forward.
All arrivals in Wuhan have to show a green code on a mobile app to prove that they are healthy.

SEE ALSO :Factbox: What we know about the new coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

Elsewhere in China long lines of travellers queued up at train stations to board high-speed services back to Wuhan.
Passengers in Shanghai had their temperatures checked by staff in goggles and masks after boarding their Saturday morning service.
Restrictions on residents heading out of Wuhan will not be lifted until April 8, when the airport will also reopen for domestic flights.
Wuhan is the last area of Hubei province to see overland travel restrictions lifted, although some highways leading into the city had already reopened this week.
Gao Xuesong, a worker in Wuhan’s auto industry, arrived in the city Friday night.

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SEE ALSO :Travelers to be screened for ‘Chinese’ coronavirus- Government

“It almost feels like returning to an alien land, because I haven’t been back for more than two months,” he told AFP.
Zero cases, not zero risk
The new coronavirus was detected in December and has been linked to a market in the city that sold wild animals for human consumption.
Wuhan has paid a heavy price for the outbreak, with more than 50,000 people infected and more COVID-19 deaths than any other city in China.
There were three more deaths in the city on Saturday, health officials reported.
Wuhan initially struggled to contain the outbreak and AFP reporters saw long queues of sick patients at one overwhelmed city hospital in January.
But numbers have fallen dramatically in recent weeks. Official figures show there have been fewer than 20 new cases across the province in the past fortnight.
Most of Wuhan’s subway network restarted on Saturday, while some shopping centres will open their doors next week.
Banks reopened earlier this week and bus services resumed but residents have been warned against unnecessary travel and those over 65 have been told to avoid public transport.
A study this week found the lockdown in Wuhan succeeded in stopping the fast-spreading virus in its tracks and gave health care facilities crucial breathing room — but warned against opening up the city too soon.
More than 2,500 people are still hospitalised with the disease in Wuhan, including nearly 900 “severe” cases.
Liu Dongru, of the Hubei Health Commission, said Friday that although parts of Wuhan had been reclassified as “low-risk” areas, work to control the virus needed to continue.
“Zero reported cases does not equal zero risk,” he said.


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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now : The Standard

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

US overtakes China
There are now over half a million coronavirus cases reported across 202 countries and territories globally and the United States has overtaken China as the country with the most infections.
Of the 531,000 cases reported, over 60,000 were added in the past day, and 2,532 new deaths in 59 countries brought the total death toll to over 24,000, according to a Reuters tally at 0200 GMT on Friday.

SEE ALSO :China virus cases spike, 17 new infections reported

It has been the single most deadly day for the disease since the outbreak began, with Italy and Spain reporting over 700 deaths each. The United States, the United Kingdom, Iran and France reported over 100 fatalities each.
The United States contributed roughly one-third of newly reported cases, as testing in the country expanded, with over 17,000 cases in the past 24 hours, and 281 deaths, the highest single-day case load of any country since the outbreak began.
China, which announced plans to close its borders to foreign citizens from Saturday, reported 5 deaths and 55 cases, and said that all but two of the new cases were from outside the country.

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.  

Cases in South and Central America surpassed 10,000 as of Thursday, with major outbreaks in Brazil, Chile and Ecuador, which are each reporting over a thousand cases.
Countries which experienced outbreaks in February or earlier are reporting higher recovery rates.

SEE ALSO :China confirms virus spreading between humans

Record US jobless claims
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record 3.28 million last week, in the clearest evidence yet of the coronavirus’ devastating impact on the economy.
Strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic have brought the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely ended the longest employment boom in US history.
When is a bull not a bull?
When it comes in the middle of a bear.

SEE ALSO :Factbox: What we know about the new coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s surge of over 20% from its coronavirus-induced recent low this week, by one definition used on Wall Street, suggests a new bull market. The surge came on hopes a $2 trillion stimulus measure would flood the country with cash in a bid to counter the economic impact of the intensifying pandemic.
But that definition should be treated with a large piece of caution. The very definition of bull market is debatable, and given the market’s volatility on news about the pandemic, some said that calling the move upwards a “bull market” was tantamount to missing the forest for the trees.
Coronavirus can get you out of jail or land you in it
While countries like Afghanistan and Canada are releasing inmates to prevent the spread of the virus in the tight confinement of prison facilities, other places are increasing punishments for flouting the rules.
Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers’ faces being jailed for two years, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions said on Thursday, after recent reports of such incidents. Those responsible could face charges of common assault.

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SEE ALSO :Travelers to be screened for ‘Chinese’ coronavirus- Government

In Singapore, famous for its strict rules, anyone caught intentionally sitting less than a meter away from another person in a public place or on a fixed seat singled out not to be occupied under new, more stringent social distancing rules, can be fined up to S$10,000 ($6,990), jailed up to six months, or both.
How far is a normal bike ride?
As more countries adopt stringent lockdown policies to try to stem the spread of the virus, a debate is bubbling over what limits there should be on regular exercise.
In France, citizens have been told not to venture further than 1 km from their homes. In Israel, the guidance suggests 100 metres should be the maximum. In Britain, people are allowed to visit parks near where they live, as long as they maintain a distance of at least two meters from others.
In Belgium, a nation of cyclists, some want a limit of up to 70 km so they can get in a proper bike ride. The interior minister says that is far too much.
Soap, not guns
A deeply conservative tribal region of Pakistan is spreading an animated, Pashto-language video to warn its population about the coronavirus – and taking a shot at its gun culture in the process.
In the video protagonist Pabo “Badmash”, or Pabo the Thug, is setting out to defeat the virus. Villagers offer him a wooden bat, a pistol, a sword and even a rocket launcher.
But Pabo astounds them by refusing, saying he will defeat the enemy with his “bare hands”. He then proceeds to wash his hands with soap – and even checks to ensure he has lathered them for 20 seconds, as recommended.


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