• ACV Reports

China's Uyghur people: Slave labor for U.S., international firms. You probably own their products

The Chinese government is conscripting Chinese ethnic minorities into forced labor.

Modern commerce often distances consumers from production. It’s far too easy to pretend that the boxes of goods that show up at your front door just magically arrive there — seemingly springing magically into being.

But this myth obfuscates a multitude of tragic truths that we can no longer deny, one of these being that the goods that fill our shopping carts may be the spoils of de facto slave labor in China.

A new report identifies 83 global brands, including Nike, Gap, Target, Apple, H&M, BMW, Samsung and Huawei, that depend upon factories in China that utilize the forced labor of Chinese ethnic minority Uyghurs.

More than 80,000 of the estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs detained in China have been transferred from re-education camps to a network of 27 Chinese factories for state-sponsored forced labor, according to the report produced by the think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (APSI).

The Uyghurs gradually started to become Islamized in the 10th century and most Uyghurs identified as Muslims by the 16th century. As with Chinese Christians, it is their following of what the Chinese consider an illegal religious organization that makes them subject to official sanctions and treatment as less than citizens.

They are barely recognized by China. The Uyghur people are native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. They are considered to be one of China's 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. The Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government only as a regional minority within a multicultural nation.

Hundreds of detained Uyghur men and women were recorded by a security drone, the footage leaked to western media, before they were loaded on trains and shipped off to work in factories as slaves. (Photo captured from Chinese drone footage)

It has been well-documented that China’s Uyghur detention camps have worked to systematically strip the group of its cultural identity, language and religion in reprehensible conditions. Now APSI’s report makes clear that when Uyghur detainees are released to “vocational training,” their suffering is far from over.

The report details how China’s work programs for Uyghur detainees is consistent with six of the International Labor Organization’s eleven indicators of forced labor, including threatening Uyghur workers and their families with re-education, restricting freedom of movement through surveillance and isolation, and “military-style” management of work within the factories. APSI states:

In the APSI report are details of how, in factories far away from home, detained Uyghur workers typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organized Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances.

Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned political overseers and have limited freedom of movement.”

It should come as little surprise that several known bad actors are also profiting from this forced labor, including CRRC Corporation Limited (CRRC) and Build Your Dreams (BYD). ACV Reports has been following the moves of these two Chinese companies through other media and open-source intelligence since March. The primary goal of these two particularly heinous slave-labor companies is to force their competitors in the rail and automotive industries out of business.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced the “Slave-Free Business Certification Act requiring U.S. companies U.S. companies to certify none of their products are produced with slave labor. (Photo: Andrew Wang/Getty Photos)

As a result, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), has introduced a measure to heavily fine U.S. companies that continue to avail themselves of the free labor offered to them by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The Slave-Free Business Certification Act would require every American business that takes in over $500 million worldwide to conduct audits and have CEOs certify to the U.S. Department of Labor that their companies are not using slave labor in their supply chains.

In addition, U.S. firms would be required to publish a report of their efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labor. The bill would also allow the Labor Secretary to fine companies up to $500 million for failing to comply.

“Corporate America and the celebrities that hawk their products talk up corporate social responsibility and social justice at home while making millions of dollars off the slave labor that assembles their products,” Hawley said. “Executives build woke, progressive brands for American consumers, but happily outsource labor to Chinese concentration camps.”

Many U.S. consumers of what appear to be American-produced goods are actually complicit in these human rights abuses. If, armed with this knowledge, we continue to ignore the reality that our purchases perpetuate the forced labor of the Uyghur population, we can consider ourselves nothing less.

Should you want to know whether your purchasing supports one of the factories identified in these two reports, you can find a thorough list of corporate culprits that are sourcing from these factories and what products they produce. I’ve linked to the report’s appendix. It’s sober reading, but grievously overdue.

It is time we as the United States of America begin considering China our arch enemy. Whether it is their aggressive military actions in the South China Sea, their nearly unimpeded spying and proprietary technological and informational theft or these human rights abuses, they are no friend of ours, or of the rest of the world.

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