The Uyghurs decimation by the Chinese government has been a long-held campaign to control and eliminate their culture for the good of the country.
But a report from Justice For All, a human rights organisation, reveals China’s actions count as genocide under the United Nations definition.
So far, more than 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in concentration camps or “re-education camps” to learn “loyalty to the state”.
However, thousands of other Uyghur people have been sent to forced labour factories where companies like Nike utilise the cheap labour.
In an Australia Strategic Policy Institute report, between 2017 and 2019, more than 80,000 Uyghurs were used in the supply chain for brands such as Nike, Apple, H&M, Cotton On, Target and Ikea.
Nike responded, telling The Washington Post it was “committed to upholding international labour standards globally” and that suppliers are “prohibited from using any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor”.
Nike has used forced labour for decades with a 2008 Oxfam article revealing Nike’s migrant employment in Malaysia and its abuse of workers by confiscating passports and other documents to prevent workers from returning home.
More recently, forced labour was used in the production of face masks by company Hubei Haixin Protective Products Group Co Ltd, who supplied Australia with up to 200,000 protective masks.
131 Uyghur women were transported from their home to the Hubei factory, where they were forced to learn Mandarin, alongside other Chinese re-education activities like anthem-singing.
The supply chain from factory to consumer is one worth knowing to avoid encouraging forced labour and its subsequent abuses.
The issue of forced labour beside its rejection of human rights is its broader contribution to China’s genocide campaign in eradicating the Uyghur population.
The conflict between the Chinese and Uyghur people has been an issue since the early 19th century when East Turkestan fell under Nationalist Chinese rule.
Ethnic tensions are credited for the recent violence alongside the Chinese government’s monopolisation of the natural resources in the region, including oil, coal and natural gas.
Under the United Nations definition of genocide, there are five criteria that amount to the destruction of an ethnic group, including:
- Killing members of the group
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
- Deliberating inflicting on the group conditions for life to bring about physical or destruction
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
The Justice For All report lists each criterion, from the Chinese using Uyghurs for organ harvesting to forcing Uighur children into orphanages, alongside the sterilisation and forced abortion of Uyghurs.
The Chinese government justifies the mass imprisonment and abuses as essential steps in halting terrorism after years of violence in Xinjiang from the Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM).
According to the Australian Institute of International Affairs, more than 200 terrorist attacks have been taken against China by the TIM, such as the 2014 bomb attack at a Xinjiang market.
Are you contributing to forced labour practices? For more information about the Uyghur genocide, read the Justice For All report.
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