The widespread genocide against Uighur Muslims in China has been garnering international attention, though little action has been taken to stop it. It’s estimated that over one million Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in China, are being held in concentration camps. Survivors have spoken about enduring torture, abuse, and forced abortions. Others are being murdered. Now, a new investigation has found that Uighurs are also being used for forced labor.
Buzzfeed News has released part four of an ongoing investigation into the human rights abuses against the Uighurs. Using government records, interviews, and satellite images, it discovered that at least 135 of the concentration camps where Uighurs are being held also contain factory buildings, where prisoners are likely being forced to work. The buildings together are four times the size of the Mall of America, at over 21 million square feet — and it is believed that more are being built.
Former detainees told Buzzfeed News they were forced to work in the factory buildings without pay. While prisoners were working, the buildings were locked from the outside. This forced labor is good for business in China. As Buzzfeed News reported (emphasis added):
Xinjiang’s industry is booming, and the region has one of the fastest GDP growth rates in China. Xinjiang exports a range of products, from clothing to machinery, and the US is one of the region’s fastest-growing markets. Xinjiang’s factories produce many goods that eventually make their way to US consumers.
… [L]abor rights advocates, as well as experts who have examined the abuses in Xinjiang, argue that forced labor is so widespread in the region that no company that manufactures there could conclude that its supply chain is free from it. That would mean that US consumers have no real way of knowing whether the goods they purchase from Xinjiang are tainted.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, told Buzzfeed News that corporations bear responsibility. “Corporations should stop producing in, and sourcing from, Xinjiang,” he said. “There is no way to produce responsibly in the region until the forced labor and broader repression ends.”
Additionally, Buzzfeed News found that one of the firms there is making military uniforms for numerous Chinese outfits, including the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police, and China’s Public Security bureau.
Yet far from putting an end to these human rights abuses, many in the international community are looking the other way.
One week from tomorrow, a man who herded 1 million Uighurs into camps, jails human rights activists, crushed Tibet, disappeared courageous men and women who sounded the alarm on the coronavirus, and suffocated freedom in Hong Kong will join the U.N.'s highest human rights body. pic.twitter.com/j4iSBOOnlk
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) December 24, 2020
Earlier this year, China was given a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. With this position, China will be able to hand-pick human rights investigators for the United Nations. This was allowed to happen even as Human Rights Watch declared China to be one of the world’s greatest threats to human rights. Yet the United Nations has welcomed China to the council that is supposed to be dedicated to preventing and fighting human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, numerous American corporations such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike fought a bill that would have banned the import of products obtained through forced labor in China. The bill passed the House but has yet to be debated in the Senate.
This inaction from multiple avenues, including the United Nations, foreign corporations, and global governments, sends a clear signal that China has nothing to fear. The world will look the other way as China’s government commits genocide against millions of innocent people, the likes of which are reminiscent of the Holocaust in World War II.
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