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US Chipmaker's Apology to China Draws Criticism

FILE - The symbol for Intel appears on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York on Oct. 1, 2019.

U.S. chipmaker Intel is facing criticism in China after it apologized Thursday for a letter the firm sent to suppliers asking them "to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region."

On Thursday, Intel posted a Chinese-language message on its WeChat and Weibo accounts apologizing for "trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China."

Intel's apology came as U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans the import of goods produced by Uyghur slave labor. Under the measure, a company is prohibited from importing from China's Xinjiang region unless it can prove that its supply chains have not used labor from Uyghurs, ethnic Muslims reportedly enslaved in Chinese camps.

Beijing denies complaints of abuses in the mostly Muslim region.

Intel is just the latest multinational firm to be caught up in the struggle over the Uyghurs issue as China prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February. Intel is among the International Olympic Committee sponsors. According to Reuters, 26% of Intel's 2020 total revenue was earned in China.

Earlier this month, Intel's letter to suppliers asking them to be sure not to use labor, products or services from Xinjiang cited restrictions imposed by "multiple governments."

That sparked a backlash in China, with calls for a boycott and criticism of the company in state and social media. Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, called Intel's request to suppliers "arrogant and vicious," according to reports.

Wang Junkai, also known as Karry Wang, a singer with the popular boy band TFBOYS, said on Weibo on Wednesday that he would not serve as an Intel brand ambassador. "National interests exceed everything," he said, according to wire service reports.

Chinese officials acknowledged Intel's apology.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a daily briefing in Beijing that "we note the statement and hope the relevant company will respect facts and tell right from wrong," according to Reuters.

The White House also appeared to note the company's apology.

Without naming Intel, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a briefing Thursday that U.S. companies "should never feel the need to apologize for standing up for fundamental human rights or opposing repression," according to reports.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.