Intel has apologized in China following a backlash over a directive to suppliers not to source products or labor from the Xinjiang region.

The US chipmaker told suppliers in a letter dated December 2021 that it “is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region” of China, citing government restrictions and questions from investors and customers.

The company apologized on Thursday after the letter sparked controversy in China.

“Although our original intention was to ensure compliance with US laws, this letter has caused many questions and concerns among our cherished Chinese partners, which we deeply regret,” the company said in a statement on Weibo, a Twitter-like service.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Beijing of detaining Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang in “re-education” camps and using them as forced labor, which they claim is part of global tech and retail supply chains, either directly or indirectly.

Sanctions from the United States and other Western countries over Xinjiang have sparked a pushback from the Chinese government, which calls the camps “vocational training centers” designed to combat poverty and religious extremism.

In an email to CNN Business, an Intel spokesperson said the company would continue to ensure its global sourcing complies with applicable laws and regulations in the United States and in other jurisdictions.

“We issued a statement in China to address concerns raised by our stakeholders there regarding how we communicated certain legal requirements and policies with our global supplier network,” it added.

Intel’s letter prompted a backlash on Chinese state and social media. People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, called the statement “absurd”, adding that Intel is “biting the hand that feeds it.”

Chinese pop star Wang Junkai, the brand ambassador for Intel Core, announced Wednesday that he had cut all ties with Intel over its statement, saying “national interests are above all else.”

On Thursday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said that “claims related to Xinjiang, such as forced labor” are “lies by US’s anti-China forces.”

“We hope relevant businesses respect facts, distinguishing between right and wrong,” he said.

— CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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