Thousands of oppressed Muslims toil in “forced labor” conditions in a network of Chinese factories that supply dozens of major companies such as Apple and Nike, a new report says.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute identified at least 27 plants in nine provinces of China where Uighur Muslims have been sent as part Beijing’s alleged campaign against the ethnic minority group. The factories claim to be in the supply chains of at least 83 global brands, making products from Nike sneakers to iPhone cameras, according to the think tank’s Sunday report.
Some of the more than 80,000 Uighurs transferred to factories between 2017 and 2019 came directly from so-called “re-education” camps in the Xinjiang province, the group known as ASPI said in the report. Other companies implicated in the program include BMW, Gap and Samsung, the report says.
“It is extremely difficult for Uighurs to refuse or escape these work assignments, which are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination both inside and outside of Xinjiang,” the report says. “In addition to constant surveillance, the threat of arbitrary detention hangs over minority citizens who refuse their government-sponsored work assignments.”
The so-called labor transfer scheme marks a “new phase” in Beijing’s attacks on the Uighurs, the ASPI said. The United Nations has estimated that more than 1 million Uighurs have been detained in the Xinjiang camps, which the Chinese government claims are meant to clamp down on terrorism and offer vocational skills.
At the factories, Uighur workers are prevented from practicing their religion, forced to learn Mandarin and take part in “patriotic education,” the ASPI said. At least some factories also pay them lower wages than their Han Chinese counterparts, according to the report.
“They have little freedom of movement and live in carefully guarded dormitories, isolated from their families and children back in Xinjiang,” ASPI wrote in the report.