Free Uyghurs from forced labor in China - FreedomUnited.org
Campaign Update:

July 23, 2020: Our collective voice is helping to power a new call for change! Freedom United has joined an international coalition of over 190 organizations from 36 countries, including over 70 Uyghur groups, that is calling on brands to exit the Uyghur Region. Read more here. 

Free Uyghurs from forced labor in China

Read Rahima’s story.

Freedom United denounces prejudice against Chinese people, particularly in the U.S., linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, reports of the persecution and forced labor of Uyghurs and other marginalized groups in China during the COVID-19 pandemic have increased. 

“If the government tells you to work, you go.” Uyghur laborer, Aksu, China.1

People belonging to ethnic, cultural, and religious groups in northwestern China, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Hui, are currently the target of the largest organized detention of an ethno-religious minority the world has seen since World War II. Since 2017, over one million have been detained.2

Detainees are made to work under constant surveillance, with assigned minders and no freedom to leave. Their forced labor contributes to the production of goods for numerous multinationals.

The native people of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Northwest China—known to locals as East Turkistan—are largely from Turkic ethnic groups. Ethnically and culturally distinct from China’s majority Han population, most Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Hui are Muslim, and their languages—with the exception of the Hui—are unrelated to Mandarin and Cantonese. They have long been persecuted for their ethnicity by the government, which has repressed their language, religion, and culture along with settling millions of Han Chinese in the Uyghur Region.  Racial discrimination against Muslims is commonplace.3

In recent years, however, the government’s efforts to oppress and forcibly assimilate people from Turkic and Muslim-majority ethnic groups, like Uyghurs, have expanded dramatically.

Survivor accounts, leaked official documents, and satellite imagery confirm that the Chinese government is subjecting hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and other Turkic and Muslim people to systematic forced labor in detention camps, prisons, and factories. 4 Forced loyalty to the Communist party, renunciation of Islam, constant surveillance, and torture are among the other horrifying conditions that they face.5 Experts argue that forced labor is now so widespread in the Uyghur Region that all goods produced there should be considered tainted.6

This year, reports revealed that the forced labor of Uyghurs has been expanded beyond the Uyghur Region, with at least 80,000 Uyghurs transferred to factories across China where they cannot leave, are constantly surveilled, and must undergo “ideological training” to abandon their religion and culture.7

Recent video evidence shows that some of these transfers occurred earlier this year, when much of China was under lockdown as a result of the expanding COVID-19 outbreak. This means these laborers were forced to work and exposed to the virus while much of the country’s population sheltered at home. 8

Few detainees are charged with any crime but rather are targeted simply for practicing their Muslim faith. 9 The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination states that Muslim minorities are now “treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.”10 Analysts have argued that the Chinese government’s use of forced labor as part of an effort to forcibly assimilate an ethnic group and eliminate a culture and religion sets it apart from more common forms of forced labor and could make the government guilty of crimes against humanity.11 Some have even described the government’s actions as cultural genocide.12

The forced labor of Uyghurs and other people from Turkic or mainly Muslim ethnic groups has become a significant part of the Chinese economy. A complex system of buying and selling their labor has developed, with many brokers and local officials advertising “government sponsored workers” online.13

Countless Western companies are also profiting from this system of forced labor in their supply chains. Over 20 percent of the global apparel’s cotton supply is grown in Uyghur Region,14 with 84 percent of China’s supply grown in the province. Recent reports implicate at least 83 companies, in numerous different industries, in profiting from the forced labor.

  • The Huafu Fashion Co. mill in Aksu, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, claims to make yarn that eventually finds its way into clothes for Western fast fashion brands More than 4,000 Uyghurs work there in isolation and under strict “military-style management,” as stated by the local human resources bureau. 15
  • The Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd. in Laixi City, Shandong is one of the world’s largest manufacturers for a major sneaker company. As of 2020, around 600 Uyghur people worked in the factory. These workers did not come by choice, are forbidden from leaving, and cannot practice their religion. Photographs of the factory show watchtowers, razor wire, and inward-facing barbed wire fences. 16
  • O-Film Technology Co. Ltd. in Nanchang, Jiangxi, produces cameras and touchscreens for electronics companies, including smartphone “selfie” cameras. Over a thousand Uyghurs were transferred there in 2017, where they were assigned minders and expected to “gradually alter their ideology.”17

The Chinese government has defended the camps as voluntary “vocational training centers” that serve to provide professional opportunities and eliminate extremism.18 But the stories above are just some among the mounting evidence that reveal this system of modern slavery for what it is.

We have the power to push for change. Although the Chinese government continues to deny any wrongdoing, we can draw attention to the issue and put pressure on them to end the use of forced labor. Western governments and corporations must end their involvement in implicated factories. By making it neither economically nor politically advantageous for the Chinese government to continue its current treatment of these people, we can make a difference.

There is a growing movement calling for these changes, and now we have ample evidence to argue for it. Some officials in the U.S. government and around the world have already started calling for laws banning imports from the Uyghur Region. Some companies have cut ties with their factories in the Uyghur Region, while others have pledged to investigate their supply chains. Let’s take advantage of this momentum and use our voice as civil society to cement real change.

Urge the Chinese government to end the persecution and exploitation of Uyghurs and other marginalized groups through the use of forced labor.

Notes:

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/western-companies-get-tangled-in-chinas-muslim-clampdown-11558017472
  2. https://www.csis.org/analysis/connecting-dots-xinjiang-forced-labor-forced-assimilation-and-western-supply-chains
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22278037
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/16/world/asia/xinjiang-china-forced-labor-camps-uighurs.html
  5. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uighurs-xinjiang
  6. https://www.fairlabor.org/sites/default/files/documents/reports/fla-brief-xinjiang_forced_labor_risk_final.pdf
  7. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale
  8. https://www.rfa.org/english/video?v=1_yjoodoqr
  9. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uighurs-xinjiang
  10. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23452&LangID=E
  11. https://www.ushmm.org/genocide-prevention/blog/simon-skjodt-center-director-delivers-remarks-on-chinas-systematic-persecut
  12. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/19/china-has-chosen-cultural-genocide-in-xinjiang-for-now/
  13. https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2020-03/Uyghurs%20for%20sale_UPDATE-06MAR.pdf?TJHUQi1T50fUpbjD9zKRLeutM8wuWxpv#page=24
  14. https://www.gujcot.com/upload_files/news/Jernigan%20Global%2022-July-2019.pdf
  15. https://www.wsj.com/articles/western-companies-get-tangled-in-chinas-muslim-clampdown-11558017472
  16. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-compels-uighurs-to-work-in-shoe-factory-that-supplies-nike/2020/02/28/ebddf5f4-57b2-11ea-8efd-0f904bdd8057_story.html
  17. https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2020-03/Uyghurs%20for%20sale_UPDATE-06MAR.pdf?TJHUQi1T50fUpbjD9zKRLeutM8wuWxpv#page=24
  18. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uighurs-xinjiang
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Theresa Strom
Theresa Strom

Those who ship jobs overseas should not be rewarded for using forced labor from people forced to do the bidding of the Chinese government and its citizens. We have to include the citizens of China in what is a crime that they know is happening and yet they do nothing to stop! Our government is also responsible for allowing these crimes against humanity to continue!

f w baldwin
f w baldwin

The Don is trying to rectify the situation.

f w baldwin
f w baldwin

The CCP is a horrible master
and civilized companies should not
participate in its atrocities.

Graeme Barber
Graeme Barber

I am a Committee member (Canada) of ETAC (End Transplant Abuse in China) and I wish to make three comments I have already made “privately” to FreedomUnited.
All petitions with respect to China should be directed to Governments of free countries. China will do what ever it wants legal or illegal, moral or amoral and will not be swayed by anything any one says.
Secondly Emphasize slave labour throughout China often Uyghurs in Western Factories.
Thirdly Emphasize with Forced organ Harve

Graeme Barber
Graeme Barber

I don’t why my comment was cut short. With Forced organ Harvesting to emphasize victims organs are taken that kill the victim such as the heart not just kidneys or part of the liver.

Audrey Turgeon
Audrey Turgeon

It is a shame that slavery exists in this modern time.

don owers
don owers

unfortunately slavery is not restricted to China, its endorsed by economics

Tanja Zondervan

Calling on apparel brands to exit the Uyghur Region and no longer be complicit in systematic forced labour’.

MORE THAN 1 MILLION UYGHURS HAVE BEEN DETAINED in concentration camps in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), China. It is the largest internment of ethnic minorities since the Nazi regime. Uyghur forced labour feeds into global garment supply chains.

We must #EndUyghurForcedLabour!

Demand that brands stop sourcing clothing from the Uyghur Region!
http://enduyghurforcedlabour

Call on the Chinese government to free Uyghurs from forced labor

Help us reach 50,000 actions
32,351

I am calling on the Chinese government to end the persecution and exploitation of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority groups through forced labor.

I urge the Chinese government to immediately release all Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and others forced to work in factories and detention camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and beyond, and to allow them to return home.

 

مەن ختتاي ھۆكۈمىتىنى ئۇيغۇرلار ۋە باشقا تۈركىې مۇسۇلمان خەلقلەرنى مەجبۇرى ئەمگەك ئارقىلىق جازالاش ۋە ئېكسپالاتاتسيە قىلىشنى توختېتىشقا چاقىرىمەن. مەن ختتاي ھۆكۈمىتىنى شنجاڭ ئۇيغۇر ئاپتونوم رايونى ۋە باشقا جايلاردىكى زاۋۇتلار ۋە جازالاگىرلىرىدا ئىشلەشكە مەجبۇرلانغان ئۇيغۇر، قازاق، قىرغىز، خۇيزۇ ۋە باشقا بارلىق كىشلەرنى دەرھال قويۇپ بېرىشكە، ئۇلارنى ئۆيلىرىگە قايتىشغا رۇخسەت قىلىشىغا چاقىرىمەن

 

我呼吁中国政府结束其剥削与迫害维吾尔人及其他突厥民族、穆斯林群体的强制劳动。
 
我敦促中国政府立即释放被迫在新疆及中国各地工厂、集中营做工全部维吾尔、哈萨克、柯尔克孜、回及其他人;立即让他们回家。