Over half a million Uyghur labourers in China’s Xinjiang region have been forced into hand picking cotton through a government run work scheme, according to new report.
The Center for Global Policy (CGP), a Washington-based think tank, published a report stating that 570,000 people from Uyghur regions in 2018 were forcibly sent to pick cotton under a labour program meant to target minority groups.
Uyghurs and other Muslim groups are thought to have been targeted through a coercive labour transfer and “poverty alleviation” scheme mandated by the Chinese government.
The findings, based on an analysis of government documents and state media reports by the independent researcher Adrian Zenz, have “potentially drastic consequences for global supply chains”, according to the CGP.
This is because Xinjiang produces approximately 20% of the world’s cotton and 85% of China’s cotton, which is exported to countries including Vietnam and Bangladesh for use in their clothing industries.
Although mechanisation is increasing in Xinjiang – especially in areas controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) – much of the cotton-picking is still done by hand, especially in the south of the territory, which accounts for 99.4 per cent of Xinjiang’s highest-quality, long-staple cotton.
As a result of its conclusions about forced labour, the CGP is calling on the US government to block imports of all cotton from Xinjiang with a Withhold Release Order.
Currently, the Trump administration has only put out an order on Xinjiang cotton produced in XPCC areas.
In July, exiled Uighurs delivered a dossier of evidence to the ICC asking it to investigate crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang.
On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it did not have the jurisdiction to bring a case against China over its treatment of minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang, as the country is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.
However, the office of the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said the file would be left open. (Source: Independent UK)