Another Branch of the Chinese Economy Was Suspected of Using Forced Labor
OREANDA-NEWS. The international organization «Human Rights Watch» released another report on the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – a region in northern China where ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted. According to it's data, at least a million people have passed through the «re-education camps» created there. Judging by the reports, the harassment of residents of Xinjiang does not stop, and in general, according to the authors of the report, what is happening can be qualified as crimes against humanity.
Among the violations, they cite forced labor — sending Xinjiang residents to local factories or work in other parts of China. The authorities insist they are fighting extremism there, and the camps are just «vocational training centers». According to the authorities, they only «redistribute labor resources», helping the unemployed and improving the lives of the poor. But journalists and human rights activists talk about coercion — consent to the work chosen by the authorities can be a condition for release from the camp. Prisoners are also sent to work — they are taken to factories, and then brought back. According to human rights activists, they do not receive any payment for their work.
Forced labor is primarily associated with the production and processing of cotton. But now another industry has attracted attention — the production of solar panels, equipment for the growing renewable energy market, where China has also become a leader. There is indirect evidence that forced laborers work there, too. For example, the participation of battery factories in Xinjiang in «reallocation of labor» programs.
Outsiders are not allowed to enter the enterprises where prisoners of the camps (or former prisoners) are supposed to work. Foreign journalists coming to Xinjiang are monitored by law enforcement officials.
For Western companies, contacts with Xinjiang, amid increased attention to human rights violations in the region, can entail reputational risks, even if they are not accused of involvement in the oppression of Uighurs. One example is Disney company, which faced a wave of criticism for filming part of the film «Mulan» in Xinjiang.