This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has encouraged and supported trade with China, said Tuesday that Utah businesspeople have an obligation to protect Chinese workers who make their products from workplace injuries and fatal diseases by seeking "international standards" in the factories where they do business.
But he stopped short of saying businesses should not buy goods from factories in China that have old, primitive machines or high levels of toxins and insufficient ventilation.
''From a state standpoint, all you can ask is that firms that invest and do business with China ensure that their operations recognize international standards,'' Huntsman said in a telephone interview in response to a Salt Lake Tribune series documenting occupational hazards in Chinese factories that make goods for export to the U.S. (http://www.sltrib.com/china" target="_blank">Click here to read the entire series, including photos and documents.)
If Utah businesses insist on doing business only with factories that uphold international standards, Huntsman said, the Chinese government will be ''pressured to do what is right'' and better enforce such standards.
Machines without safety guards have caused millions of limb amputations among Chinese workers, according to the Tribune series, online at extras.sltrib.com/china.
In addition, high levels of toxins in Chinese factories have caused millions of Chinese workers occupational diseases such as leukemia, renal failure and lung failure. The majority of China's factories do not conform to international standards, according to Chinese researchers and other experts.
As governor, Huntsman has sponsored trade missions to China and other countries. During the 1990s, he served as a deputy U.S. trade representative. He also worked on the U.S. team prodding China into its ascension to the World Trade Organization.
"The big picture is that . . . China is a developing country with a lackluster record when it comes to human rights," Huntsman said. The Confucian view of society, Huntsman said, in which everyone contributes to the collective good, runs counter to individual human rights, including the right to be safe at work.
''There's a cultural disconnect,'' he said.
Later Tuesday, at a celebration at the University of Utah for the founding of the Confucius Institute on campus, Huntsman gave a speech - sprinkled with Mandarin, from his days as an LDS missionary - praising Confucius' moral and political philosophies. "Even political leaders are supposed to have a sense of virtuous leadership" under Confucian thought, Huntsman said. "Even in government."
Later asked about the Confucian idea of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," in relation to businesses buying products made in unsafe Chinese factories, Huntsman repeated that Chinese workers should be protected in the future by international trade agreements.
Currently trade agreements do not cover issues of factory conditions for workers, and the WTO does not regulate such issues.
"China needs more time," Huntsman said, adding that the 2008 Olympics will spotlight China's human rights and workplace rights records.