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BMW, Apple, GAP among 83 firms that use products made by forced Uyghur labour: Report

The report has been prepared by Canberra-based think-tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which was established by the Australian govt in 2001. 

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New Delhi: More than 80,000 Uyghurs from China’s Xinjiang province were transferred out of their homes and detention centres between 2017 and 2019, and forced to work in factories that form a part of supply chains for at least 83 well-known global brands, according to a report by Canberra-based think-tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

The brands, the report states, include multinational giants such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, GAP, Nike, Volkswagen and BMW.

“In factories far away from home, they (Uyghurs) typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances,” the report states. 

It also noted that the transferred Uyghur labourers are “assigned minders” and have “limited freedom of movement”.

Also Read: China is illegally harvesting Uyghurs organs but the Muslim world is still silent

The subjects & the research agency

Uyghurs are a primarily-Muslim minority based in Xinjiang, which lies on China’s northwest border. They are ethnically closer to people of the contiguous Central Asian nations than China’s Han majority.

The Chinese government is said to have put more than 1.8 million Uyghurs in detention centres across Xinjiang — a step, it says, is aimed at controlling Uyghur separatists, extremists and terrorists. 

The ASPI was established by the Australian government in 2001 to inform defence and strategic decisions taken by the country. It is partly funded by the country’s Department of Defence. 

How does forced labour transfer programme work?

According to the ASPI report, there are 23 factories across nine Chinese provinces that employ Uyghur labour forcefully transferred from Xinjiang. 

This labour transfer programme is managed by the central government under a policy known as “Xinjiang Aid”, it states.

The programme is “enmeshed” with the “apparatus of political detention and indoctrination”, both inside and outside Xinjiang — which makes it impossible for Uyghurs to escape these forced work assignments, the report adds.

The report also details how the central government, the local administration and private brokers help facilitate the process. 

The labour transfer programme, it states, earns local governments within Xinjiang and private brokers “a price per head” from the provincial government.

It quotes from a report prepared by a local government to further explain the modus operandi at play: “For every batch (of workers) that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and a batch will be transferred. Those employed need to receive thorough ideological education and remain in their jobs.”

Working conditions in forced labour factories

The report deploys case studies to explain its conclusions, painting a grim picture about the working conditions the Uyghurs face at the factories.

The first case study looks at “a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for US company Nike (and) is equipped with watchtowers, barbed-wire fences and police guard boxes”.

“The Uyghur workers, unlike their Han counterparts, are reportedly unable to go home for holidays,” the report states.

The second case study explores a factory in eastern China that supplies to sportswear brands such as Adidas and Fila. Here, the report claims, there was evidence suggesting that the Uyghur workers were transferred directly from detention centres in Xinjiang.

The third case study explains how “political indoctrination” is a major part of worker’s assignments at several factories. 

Also Read: After Uyghurs, another Muslim minority is under fire in China


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