Over half a million under forced labour on Xinjiang cotton farms

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More than half a million people from ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang have been coerced into picking cotton

(TibetanReview.net, Dec16’20) – More than half a million people from ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang have been coerced into picking cotton, on a scale far greater than previously thought, reported The Guardian Dec 15, citing new research. The report — written by Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher specializing in Xinjiang and Tibet — analyzed Chinese government documents and state media reports to determine that it was likely authorities were using the allegedly coercive “labor transfer programs” to provide hundreds of thousands of workers to pick cotton, the report said.

The Xinjiang region produces more than 20 percent of the world’s cotton and 84 percent of the PRC’s, the report cited the new report released Dec 14 by the Center for Global Policy, as saying, adding there is significant evidence that it is “tainted” by human rights abuses, including suspected forced labor of Uighur and other Turkic Muslim minority people.

This year, the US imposed sanctions and cotton import restrictions on suppliers controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) — a paramilitary production entity that produces one-third of Xinjiang’s cotton — over human rights concerns.

However, the report was cited as saying that those concerns extended beyond the XPCC to the whole region. It therefore recommended that the US government expand its import restrictions to cover all Xinjiang cotton, not just that produced by XPCC regions.

While China presents its labor transfer scheme as a part of the government’s massive poverty alleviation campaign, growing evidence indicates that it targets Uighur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and coerces participation, the report noted.

The number of workers brought in from other provinces for the harvest season was reported to have dropped, to be replaced by local ethnic minority laborers whose number had increased dramatically.

The report is said to estimate that 570,000 people had come through three minority-heavy prefectures alone — Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar — and that labor programs in other ethnic minority regions as well as prison labor would probably add hundreds of thousands to the figure.

The report noted that China’s treatment of the minority populations — including the mass internment of people in re-education camps, enforced sterilization of women, technological and human surveillance — had been labeled as cultural genocide by analysts.

Meanwhile on Dec 14, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it did not have the jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang because the alleged crimes happened inside China, which was outside its jurisdiction.

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