China’s Tangled Spool Of Human Rights Violations

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The systematic oppression of Uyghurs and other Turkic people in the occupied East Turkistan region, now known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), is a blatant disregard for human rights by the Chinese Communist Party. Ever since Chen Quanguo, the architect of Tibetan genocide, took over the reins of XUAR, a series of draconian policies under the guise of curbing extremist activities and promotion of economic interests have plagued the lives of Uyghur and other Turkic families in the region. Millions of Uyghurs have been illegally detained in ‘re-education’ camps over trivial allegations such as praying in a mosque, possessing an Islamic name or fasting during Ramadan. The re-education camps bear witness to cruel tortures like forced sterilizations, late-term abortions, sexual assault, physical and mental harassment as well as sleep and food deprivation. Authorities have used digital surveillance and algorithmic policing to track all Uyghur movements. A new report by the Center for Global Policy outlines details of another form of systemic injustice- forced labor camps- that employ more than 500,000 people who are forced to pick cotton. This is a part of China’s ‘poverty alleviation’ program. The Chinese government has stated, multiple times, that Uyghurs have ‘deep-rooted, lazy thinking’ and need to be pushed to work, echoing China’s views of Uyghur culture being a barrier to modernization, whilst denying all forms of legitimate employment to them. Uyghurs and other Turkic people have been systematically excluded from entrepreneurial opportunities that have allowed Han Chinese to battle poverty more effectively. The region produces 84% of China’s and 20% of the world’s cotton. Areas in the south, which produce the largest share, are heavily reliant on manual picking. Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar alone provide close to 570,000 people to the industry. Apart from these three areas, prison labor from detention centers in other regions will add thousands of unaccounted laborers to the aforementioned figure. The ‘poverty alleviation’ program was initiated by the CCP in 2014 with the goal of ending poverty and unemployment by the end of 2020. Party cadres which faced critical shortage in achieving the ‘poverty alleviation quotas’ used forced labor transfers of Uyghurs outside of re-education camps to deal with the manpower shortage on cotton plantations. Transferred workers are subjected to ideological training and made to live on site in factories. Uyghur children and elderly persons are put in centralized institutions while working-age adults are sent to state-assigned cotton-picking work. The state’s propaganda mechanisms have been working steadily to paint a rosy picture of the labor programs as glowing examples of their government’s initiatives to curb poverty. A similar strategy is at play in occupied Tibet as well where quotas are being set to move thousands of Tibetans off their lands and onto military-style work training facilities. China continues to deny reports and allegations of forced labor being employed in both regions. USA has imposed sanctions and import restrictions on cotton suppliers controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) over reports of widespread human rights violations. The XPCC is a paramilitary production entity which produces one third of the region’s cotton. The European Parliament also passed a resolution condemning China’s actions in the region.

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