Federal authorities in New York on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp.
US Customs and Border Protection officials told The Associated Press that 13 tons (11.8 metric tonnes) of hair products worth an estimated $800,000 were in the shipment.
"The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in US supply chains," said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Trade.
This is the second time this year that CBP has slapped one of its rare detention orders on shipments of hair weaves from China, based on suspicions that people making them face human rights abuses.
The orders are used to hold shipping containers at the US ports of entry until the agency can investigate claims of wrongdoing.
Rushan Abbas, a Uighur American activist whose sister, a medical doctor, went missing in China almost two years ago and is believed to be locked in a detention camp, said women who use hair weaves should think about who might be making them.
"This is so heartbreaking for us," she said. "I want people to think about the slavery people are experiencing today. My sister is sitting somewhere being forced to make what, hair pieces?"
Exporters of both shipments are in China's far west Xinjiang region, where, over the past four years, the government has detained an estimated 1 million or more ethnic Turkic minorities.
The ethnic minorities are held in internment camps and prisons where they are subjected to ideological discipline, forced to denounce their religion and language and physically abused.
China has long suspected the Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, of harboring separatist tendencies because of their distinct culture, language and religion.
Reports by the AP and other news organisations have repeatedly found that people inside the internment camps and prisons, which activists call "black factories," are making sportswear and other apparel for popular US brands.