Forced labor is about to stay at the heart of the Uyghurs

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Despite official denials, the policy is not content to continue. In fact, it’s accelerating, as Adrian Zenz’s research shows.

by Ruth Ingram

Workers at an embroidery factory in Xinjiang. Source: The Jamestown Foundationof the CGTN.

How many farmers given the choice would prefer the four walls of a sweatshop sewing Nike sneakers in a town far from home? How many housewives and traditional mothers would rather have their children raised by strangers while they sew collars on shirts on a production line for Western fashion brands?

The fate of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur men and women having no such choice and being locked into forced labor as part of the CCP’s so-called “poverty alleviation” campaign, briefly shocked the world. Initial waves of outrage and calls for the international community to act against China have turned into indifference to a succession of international crises, and Beijing continues to to protest one’s innocence denying the practice. Despite labeling the accusations the “lies of the century,” the CCP’s own websites are proof enough that what began as a policy meant to boost Xinjiang’s economy has been consolidated as a political tool to subjugate its people.

New revelations from Adrian Zenz of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) have again brought the problem to light and his damning investigations prove that the policy does not just go on but actually accelerating.

According to Zenz, the draconian practice largely unchallenged by the world, but itself defined by the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity, is not only reserved for “intransigent” “budding terrorists” released from re-education in the labyrinthine network of camps throughout the Xinjiang region, but has been standardized at all levels in the CCP’s latest five-year plans (2015-2020 and 2021-2025). Tens of thousands of Uyghurs are now hunted for compulsory internships in other parts of Xinjiang or inland China. Everyone does it, without a job, euphemistically named “overwork” must work.

The Chinese government has decreed that the will to work and capabilities of the poor are “insufficient” and, together with their inner motivation, must be “boosted”, Zenz found. Whereas before 2014 policies were vague and largely voluntary, coercion after that date has been accelerated, and constrained by political rather than economic factors. The integration of ethnic groups was a priority, an understatement according to Zenz for moving the Uyghur population from Xinjiang to other areas to alter the ethnic mix. It was confirmed in the Nankai 2021 report by researchers in China, who found that one of the main motivating factors behind labor transfers was the shrinking population in Uyghur regions.

Despite Beijing’s reluctance to publicize its current position, the recent leak of hacked documents, the Xinjiang Police Files shed light on the CCP’s intentions towards its so-called “surplus worker” Uyghur population. “Xinjiang’s continued social stability hinges on ensuring that ethnic minority citizens remain in state-controlled, economically productive factories. Therefore, the region’s coercive labor systems remain necessary for the continued achievement and consolidation of political goals,” Zenz found.

“Population Optimization” became the new watchword and the transfers exceeded expectations. Between 2016 and 2020, Xinjiang exceeded its initial transfers of 2.2 million “surplus rural workers” to 2.87 million workers per year. The new bar in 2021 has been set at 3.2 million, 15.4% more than expected.

“The Xinjiang Current (14e) The five-year plan for social and economic development (2021-2025) emphasizes the consolidation, maintenance and expansion of these results. In short, those who have been coercively mobilized into internships are now effectively prevented from leaving them,” is Zenz’s sobering conclusion.

The state apparatus is unstoppable. Everyone able to work must work, household incomes must continue to increase, under penalty of investigation, professional training must be reinforced from 1 million to 1.5 million and companies are being pressured to place orders for workers, whom the state will guarantee to take, train and deliver.

State media no longer deals with the coercive nature of politics, but is full of good news, of transformed lives. 20,000 were planned for 2020and of “sensible point” Hotan and Qiemo came calls for an increased number. Several hundred thousand more are being assigned to work out of so-called “transformation through education camps,” and the quotas are expected to increase.

Adrian Zenz.
Adrian Zenz. Credits.

Zenz estimates that between two and two and a half million individuals are exposed to coercive labor, and increasingly the benefits of the policies end up in state coffers and on the export market. The program is expected to expand from low-skilled industrial sectors to increasingly high-skilled industrial sectors, and the companies that employ the trainees or export the products of their labor will be increasingly compromised in a world that realizes the injustices perpetrated in Province. Auditing is virtually impossible in China. Despite Beijing’s recent official ratification of the International Labor Organization convention (ILO) Forced Labor Convention 1957its sequel denial of the practice of forced labor indicates that he has no intention of abandoning his political objectives in the region.

The only solution, suggests Zenz, is a concerted international response. The U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) set to take effect on June 21, 2022, which places the onus on companies to ensure that forced labor has not tainted their supply chains, is a start. But more must be done because a united front must oppose the scourge of forced labor in China, and in particular that inflicted on the Uyghur and Turkic peoples of Xinjiang.

Whether you are a willing stay-at-home mom, a family with a dependent elderly relative, a farmer who likes to tend to their fields, or someone who has other plans for their life, Zenz’s findings show that while ‘initially, the forced transfer program combined with political indoctrination, language training, military drills and racial assimilation, was reluctantly adopted, the Party largely succeeded in creating a network from which no transferred worker can escape.

The CCP has its sights set on the careers chosen by all the people of Xinjiang…and the world must act.

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