Chinese Company Supplying Masks To California Sues VICE News Over ‘Forced Uighur Labor’ Claim


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Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD, which is producing medical masks for California, is suing VICE News over an article that alleged the company used “forced Uighur labor” in its supply chains.

The complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claims that VICE “published at least two grossly defamatory statements of and concerning BYD that have caused substantial harm.”

BYD, which is backed by American billionaire Warren Buffett, received a $1 billion contract from California Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide 500 million medical masks to the state over two and a half months. The company’s press release on the lawsuit noted its deal with California.

BYD attorney Charles Harder argued in the complaint that the VICE article falsely linked BYD to the use of forced labor in China and falsely claimed that BYD had been “blacklisted” by the Trump administration.

VICE relied on a March 1 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that listed BYD among 83 companies “directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019.”

“The ASPI Report does not even state that BYD ‘us[ed] forced Uyghur labor in its supply chain’, as the Article claims. Rather, the ASPI Report merely says that BYD did business with a company which owned a subsidiary that (allegedly) had used Uyghur forced labor,” BYD’s lawsuit stated.

“Yet here, the only scandal is VICE Media’s knowingly false reporting, which has misled its readers and the public worldwide, and caused tremendous foreseeable harm to BYD.”

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Vice Media offices (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The complaint attacks ASPI’s credibility, though the Australian nonprofit’s report was cited by major media outlets including The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

The company wasn’t “blacklisted” by President Donald Trump, as the VICE article claimed, according to the complaint. (RELATED: Check Out All These Mayors Who Broke The Same Social Distancing Rules They Demanded Others Obey)

Legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump did bar the use of federal funds to purchase Chinese buses and railcars, and BYD was one of two Chinese companies whose U.S. subsidiaries were affected by the legislation, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2019.

BYD’s complaint argued that the “blacklist” label is inaccurate because the “federal legislation did not single out any companies, but rather applied to the entire Chinese transit car manufacturing industry.”

The complaint alleges that VICE “made these statements for the purpose of causing tremendous reputational and economic harm to BYD, and to financially enrich VICE Media by driving traffic to its website through its reporting of an alleged scandal.”

BYD is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, additional punitive damages and “permanent injunctive relief enjoining VICE Media from continuing to publish or republish the statements adjudicated to be defamatory.”

Vice didn’t return a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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