More Than Half a Million Uighurs Forced to Pick Cotton in China, Report Alleges

More Than Half a Million Uighurs Forced to Pick Cotton in China, Report Alleges


Over half a million Uighur laborers in the Northwestern region of Xinjiang, China, have been forced into hand picking cotton through a government run work scheme, according to new report.

The Center for Global Policy (CGP), a Washington-based think tank, published a report on Monday stating that 570,000 people from Uighur regions in 2018 were forcibly sent to pick cotton under a labor program meant to target minority groups.

“New evidence from Chinese government documents and media reports shows that hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority laborers in Xinjiang are being forced to pick cotton by hand through a coercive state-mandated labor transfer and ‘poverty alleviation’ scheme, with potentially drastic consequences for global supply chains,” the report states.

Xinjiang is home to roughly 11 million Uighors, a predominantly Muslim-Turkic ethnic minority, and produces 85 percent of China’s cotton and 20 percent of the global supply.NEWSWEEK SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS >

According to the CGP findings, the total number of forced laborers picking cotton throughout the region exceeds the reported number “by several hundred thousand.”

The report detailed “grueling” work conditions, and said that workers are heavily surveilled by government officials and police with “military-style management” and political indoctrination.

Adrian Zenz, the author of the research, said it was clear that the work program, which the government initiated to “boost rural incomes,” involved “a very high risk of forced labor.”

“Some minorities may exhibit a degree of consent in relation to this process, and they may benefit financially. However, in a system where the transition between securitization and poverty alleviation is seamless, and where the threat of extralegal internment looms large, it is impossible to define where coercion ends and where local consent may begin,” he wrote.

The report follows a long-standing international and human rights concern alleging that China has placed over 1 million Uighors and other Muslim minorities into detainment camps, and forces people to work against their will.

In 2018, the United Nations said they had credible evidence to suggest China had transformed Uigur regions into “something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone.'”

In October of this year, the U.S. Department of Labor said that Uighur laborers are forced to “endure dreadful conditions” and “receive little pay, are not allowed to leave, and have limited or no communication with family members. If family communication and visits are allowed, they are heavily monitored or cut short.”

But the Chinese government has pushed back against these claims, stating that the camps are vocational training centers meant to fight extremism, and denied all allegations of forced labor.

During a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that there is no “forced labour alleged by certain people with ulterior motives.”

“Helping people of all ethnic groups achieve stable employment is completely different from forced labour,” he added.

Wang said that workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are not discriminated against based on ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs.

But the U.S. government has pushed back against the Xinjiang region for allegations of forced labor.

Earlier this month, the U.S. banned cotton imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a powerful cotton company that manages nearly one-third of the cotton sourced in the region.

An additional bill proposing to ban all imports from Xinjiang has yet to pass the U.S. Senate.

Major international clothing brands, including Adidas, Gap and Nike, were accused of using Uighur forced labour in their textile supply chains earlier this year, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Newsweek reached out the Center for Global Policy for an additional comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

CNN:EU Parliament condemns China over Uyghur ‘exploitation’

EU Parliament condemns China over Uyghur 'exploitation'

By James Frater and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 1:31 PM ET, Thu December 17, 2020

(CNN)The European Parliament has adopted a resolution which strongly condemns China over allegations of forced labor by minority groups.”Parliament strongly condemns the Chinese government-led system of forced labour — in particular the exploitation of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups — in factories within and outside internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the EU body said in a statement Friday.The statement went on to denounce “the continued transfer of forced labourers to other Chinese administrative divisions, and the fact that well-known European brands and companies have been benefiting from forced Chinese labour.”China has consistently denied allegations of forced labor and other claims of human rights abuses in the area, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that speak a language closely related to Turkish and have their own distinct culture.

Earlier this month, the US blocked cotton imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns. US President-Elect Joe Biden has also condemned the treatment of minorities in the region.

She tweeted from Sweden about the plight of her Uyghur cousin. In Xinjiang, the authorities were watching

She tweeted from Sweden about the plight of her Uyghur cousin. In Xinjiang, the authorities were watchingThe US State Department estimates that more than one million Uyghurs, as well as members from other Muslim minority groups, have been detained in a sprawling network of internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.” Former detainees have told CNN they experienced political indoctrination and abuse inside the camps, such as food and sleep deprivation and forced injections.Initially, Beijing flatly denied the existence of the camps. But it later claimed the facilities are voluntary “vocational training centers” where people learn job skills, Chinese language and laws. The government now insists that the camps are necessary for preventing religious extremism and terrorism.On Thursday, EU parliament members expressed their concerns about what they described as the “increasingly oppressive regime” in Beijing. The body’s statement urges China to “put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for criminal offenses of members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities.””A vote that will be heard around Europe, and in Beijing, too,” EU parliament member Reinhard Bütikofer tweeted Thursday.

BBC: China’s ‘tainted’ cotton

By John Sudworth

China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities into hard, manual labour in the vast cotton fields of its western region of Xinjiang, according to new research seen by the BBC.  

Based on newly discovered online documents, it provides the first clear picture of the potential scale of forced labour in the picking of a crop that accounts for a fifth of the world’s cotton supply and is used widely throughout the global fashion industry.