Campaign Update:

May 15, 2020: The U.S. Senate has approved a bill that would sanction Chinese officials involved in the repression of Uyghurs and other groups in XUAR. Our partner at the Uyghur Human Rights Project called it “an important milestone.” Read more here.

Free Uyghurs from forced labor in China

NEW BLOG: Read Rahima’s story.

Freedom United denounces rising 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, XUAR.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 (XUAR), Northwest China, 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 XUAR.  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 XUAR that all goods produced there should be considered tainted.6

This year, reports revealed that the forced labor of Uyghurs has been expanded beyond XUAR, 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 XUAR,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, XUAR, 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 XUAR. Some companies have cut ties with their factories in XUAR, 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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Gillian StroudMIKE MAUNDERCelineAllison Knightmichele Recent comment authors
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Gillian Stroud
Gillian Stroud

Doesn’t your executive director have a name? Did he or she just forget to sign off on their opinion piece? BTW the strain of corona virus still spreading round the globe is SARS-coV2. COVID19 is the name of the lung disease caused by SARS-coV2.

michele
michele

china are beating and killing our black people and invading our countries., dont order anything formt hem dont support them. they are racist.

MIKE MAUNDER
MIKE MAUNDER

I hold the informed view of Islam, that it is no religion at all, but only a following now in its fourteenth century. – However, if people wish to follow error, I believe it is their right to do so. ….. The world of Islam seems to be reticent in taking any action upon this, and China has shown itself to be disgustingly adept in making profit from the misery of their domestic decisions. – China’s actions run contrary to Communist belief, and by their actions have embraced Fascist beliefs !

Allison Knight
Allison Knight

Mike Maunder says that his view is “informed” by which he means that he is “enlightened “ and does not believe in Islam. I would like to know if Mike has taken the time to read The Holy Quran? Has Mike ever fasted? Has Mike ever prayed to God for 40 nights to ask Him which religion is best for us? Try it! You may be surprised by the answer. Islam is the most recent gift from God. The son of the Promised Messiah, Mirza Mahmood Ahmad, interpreted the Quran’s theme “Love for All, Hatred for None”

MIKE MAUNDER
MIKE MAUNDER

The interpretation given to the Quran seems to be at odds with the last part of that book. – ‘Hatred for none’ – this is just an illusion ! ….. I recommend reading a non religious history of the life of Mohammad, and come to terms with the blood-letting of his time, otherwise your view of Islam is of the ideal, rather than the facts. – Compare your Prophet’s life with the life of The Lord Jesus, and claim the facts rather than the fiction.

MIKE MAUNDER
MIKE MAUNDER

Yes, I have read an English translation of the Quran. – Yes, I have fasted for body and mind to be more open to God in prayer, but not regularly for the sake of fasting. – Prayer every day or night, with no cut-off after 40 nights. – The Holy Bible gives the direct quote of The Lord Jesus as, ….. ”I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me”. ….. Father, Son and Spirit are the one true Almighty God, together as one.

Celine
Celine

How arrogant and ignorant can one be, Mike?! Spewing despise-filled propaganda here is hardly contributing to the discussion.
Islam has long been recognized as one of the 3 monotheistic religions, and that’s a fact. Deal with it!

MIKE MAUNDER
MIKE MAUNDER

Ignorance Celine is incorrect. – I have read a history of Mohammad. – Read the Quran and the Bible, and by that formed my opinion of Islam. – Have you read the Holy Bible ? – As I said a week ago, ”If people wish to follow error, I believe it is their right to do so” ….. As for Arrogance, how is this possible for a Christian ? – We are all in debt to The Lord Jesus who died upon the cross, and in so doing, took our sin upon himself. – By that payment we are acceptable… Read more »

MIKE MAUNDER
MIKE MAUNDER

Three beliefs that have one God, Celine. – First the Hebrew, with the one God intervening in their lives. – Then the Christian, with the Jewish history as the Bible’s Old Testament, that includes the lineage and place of birth of The Messiah. – The New Testament contains the details of the life and work of the Lord Jesus, from his followers. – Finally Islam, that claims Jesus as their prophet, but pays no attention to His teachings, preferring to elevate Mohammad above the Messiah Jesus !

Volker Pfannenberg
Volker Pfannenberg

Although there are controversies about China’s role in the genesis of COVID-19 there is no free discussion about the muslim minorities in China whose treatment can only be compared to slavelabor and detention in concentration camps. Our political leaders don’t dare to bring the issue up because of economic reasons and the majority of Australians won’t do it either. Imagine our life without Bunnings!!

Aoife McMackin
Aoife McMackin

Although COVID-19 is a very pressing issue, it’s sad that people are only getting angry about the thing directly affecting them.

john Bestevaar

China is not alone in exterminating minorities it does not like. We the people can create a coalition of the willing to interfere in the internal affairs of nations to force them to negotiate with their minorities.

Call on the Chinese government to free Uyghurs from forced labor

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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。
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