The US Court of International Trade has denied China-based printer company Ninestar’s motion to be removed from a list that bans it from importing its goods into the US.

Ninestar was added to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) entity list last June by the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF), the body that enforces the US’ ban on importing goods made using forced labour in China and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in particular.

The FLETF claimed Ninestar was “working with the government of Xinjiang to recruit, transport, transfer, harbor or receive forced labor or Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, or members of other persecuted groups out of Xinjiang”.

An immediate embargo was placed on the import of any goods produced by the firm.

The UFLPA was signed into law in 2021 after numerous reports emerged of the Chinese government detaining Uyghurs and other members of minority groups in camps in Xinjiang.

More than a million Uyghurs are estimated to have been interned in recent years in state-run camps and involved in forced labour in factories and agricultural work across the region. China broadly denies the claims.

In August, Ninestar filed a complaint in the Court of International Trade, seeking a preliminary injunction that would lift the embargo and prevent the government from taking any action against imports of Ninestar goods. The company argued that US authorities had failed to adequately explain and give evidence for the decision.

Ninestar said it was “unaware of any facts relating to their respective businesses or otherwise supporting such an allegation” and that without knowing “the bases upon which defendants added plaintiffs to the UFLPA entity list”, they were unable to “meaningfully to seek removal from the list or otherwise challenge this final agency action”.

But in a February 27 ruling in response to Ninestar’s motion for preliminary injunction, Judge Gary S. Katzmann concluded the FLETF had given the company “an adequate explanation”.

The decision was based on an allegation from an informant, the judge said, as well as  “[Chinese] government documents, Ninestar’s company documents, and media reports that corroborate that Ninestar is participating in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government’s ‘poverty alleviation’ programs transferring laborers from ‘remote and underdeveloped areas’ to its facilities”.

In December, Ninestar filed a motion to unseal and unredact the administrative record, which is yet to be determined.

The US government contends the information was redacted to protect the identity of the government informant, and that to disclose their identity would risk their safety and jeopardise future investigations, which rely on submissions of allegations and information.

Ninestar also argued that the FLETF “exceeded its authority by using a burden of proof of reasonable cause rather than preponderance of the evidence” and its “determination amounted to an impermissibly retroactive application of the UFLPA”.

But the US government claimed that Ninestar “has not been irreparably harmed and that the public interest and balance of hardships” mean the embargo should remain in place.

Katzmann concluded Ninestar had “failed to establish irreparable harm” in terms of financial damage, loss of business opportunity and reputation, and that it “does not prevail in the balancing of equities and public interest”.

He also found that the information provided by the informant contains evidence of UFLPA violations Ninestar’s facilities in the city of Zhuhai,  while the preponderance of evidence requirement was unnecessary as it would in fact “frustrate” FLETF’s efforts, in part due to the difficulty in getting information about forced labour from China.

Two public interests stood out, tipping the balance of equities in favour of the US government, the judge says: that the UFLPA is clear that “even a single entry of goods made with forced labor from Xinjiang is one too many” and that the law is intended to “strengthen international protections for human rights beyond Xinjiang and to forcefully denounce any form of forced labor”.

A representative for Ninestar declined to comment.

The decision on Ninestar’s motion for judgement on unsealing and removing the redactions on the administrative record remains in the briefing stage and is not expected until later this year.