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Western companies are being forced to choose between supporting human rights and profits from China, caught up in a battle the US and its allies are waging with Beijing over its persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

As China comes under scrutiny ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, human rights activists are urging companies to take a stand over the repression of Uyghurs, which the US this week formally declared was “genocide”.

Meanwhile, the US Congress is considering legislation that would force companies to ensure their supply chains use no forced labour from Xinjiang.

The rising pressure comes as Beijing has begun whipping up nationalist opposition to brands such as Nike and H&M that have voiced concerns about Xinjiang or vowed to eliminate the use of forced labour from the northwestern Chinese region from their supply chains. (FT)

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In the news

S&P 500 closes above 4,000 for first time Technology and energy shares propelled US stocks to a new record on Thursday while government bonds rallied, in the return of a popular pandemic trade predicated on continued social curbs and supportive monetary policy. (FT)

Line chart of S&P 500 index showing Wall Street’s blue-chip benchmark breaches 4,000 for the first time

Hong Kong court convicts activists over 2019 protests Some of the city’s most senior pro-democracy figures, including media mogul Jimmy Lai, have been convicted of unauthorised assembly during protests in 2019, in the latest indication of the government’s efforts to crush dissident voices in the territory. (FT)

Opec+ agrees to increase oil production The oil alliance has decided to increase output gradually from May as pressure mounts from inside and outside the group to release more barrels on to the market and keep crude prices in check. (FT)

Singapore closes in on Hong Kong as arbitration centre The jump in case filings in Singapore comes as international corporations doing deals in Asia are considering excluding Hong Kong from legal contracts over concerns that China’s growing influence may undermine the rule of law in the territory. (FT)

Aung San Suu Kyi faces new charge Myanmar’s deposed leader has been charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, her lawyer said on Thursday. The new charge is the most serious alleged against the country’s former leader. (Straits Times)

Aung San Suu Kyi pictured in January 2020
Aung San Suu Kyi pictured in January 2020 © AFP via Getty Images

China manoeuvres near Taiwan fuel concerns China has stepped up its military posturing around the island nation over the past week, a trend that is set to fuel growing concerns that Beijing might move closer to attacking Taiwan. The forays come as Washington has begun to ready for the growing risk of a war over Taiwan. (FT)

Irish PM calls on UK and EU to ‘reset’ relations Micheál Martin lamented the deterioration in relations between the UK and the EU in recent months, in an interview with the Financial Times. “I think we need to reset the relationship,” he said. (FT)

Mizuho investigates possible losses linked to Archegos The Japanese bank has become the latest lender to investigate losses linked to the woes at the US-based family office, said people with knowledge of the situation. (FT)

The day ahead

US March unemployment figures Monthly US jobless data is out on Friday when economists expect a big boost to figures helped by the decline in coronavirus cases, an increase in vaccinations and the loosening of lockdown restrictions. (FT)

What else we’re reading

Archegos debacle reveals hidden risk of swaps business The Archegos Capital debacle has exposed the hidden risks of the lucrative but opaque equity derivatives business through which banks empower hedge funds to make outsize bets on stocks and related assets. (FT)

How to vaccinate the world The messy, belated compromise on HIV is the model for what must happen much faster for Covid-19. We need to help poorer countries produce vaccines, writes Simon Kuper. One place with surprisingly high vaccine hesitancy: Hong Kong. (FT, Atlantic)

montage of syringe and droplet resembling Earth

How 2 decades of EU migration went into reverse Almost two decades of migration into the UK appear to be going into reverse. Brexit shook the faith of some foreign-born workers, while Covid-19 has caused their jobs to disappear or be put on hold. What does this mean for them, and for Britain? (FT)

Scalpel, tongs . . . WiFi? Western doctors had been trained to believe that “proper” surgery involved proximity to the patient. Technology, and the pandemic, have changed that, writes Gillian Tett on the rise of virtual surgery. (FT)

Surviving global travel during Covid If you want to go to a country where Covid-19 is under control, expect plenty of high price tags and bureaucracy. After his mother received word that she would finally get the double lung transplant she had been waiting for, here’s how her son got from New York to Sydney — after 68 hours of flying. (Politico)

The future of work takes shape The pandemic has left the world’s former office workers in a state of flux. But as lockdowns ease, some trends are becoming clearer. Check out our series on the new workplace. (FT)

Montage of people working on laptops with backgrounds of travel destinations
Lockdown easing will revive big cities but cheaper places are already wooing flexible workers

Podcast of the day

Britain shifts military focus The UK’s defence forces are slimming down and harnessing the power of AI and satellites to meet 21st century threats. Defence and security editor Helen Warrell talks to General Sir Patrick Sanders, head of the UK’s Strategic Command, about the huge transformation. Read the highlights of their conversation here. (FT)

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