The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by Xi Jinping, has imposed far-reaching and far-reaching restrictions on the rights of some 11 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. For years, the Chinese government has restricted the basic human rights, particularly the freedom of religion of these ethnic minorities. The Chinese government’s tools and control methods are cruel and very personal. Any form of expression of Uyghur identity, culture and freedom is treated by the CCP as a threat to its power and viewed as one of the three evils – separatism, terrorism and extremism.
Two recent reports of the Chinese Communist Party’s activities in Xinjiang shocked the world and revealed that the CCP has hit a new low by imprisoning and enslaving ethnic minorities in its distant northwestern region. The first report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), titled “China: Big Data Program Targets Muslims in Xinjiang,” found that the Chinese government in Xinjiang has employed “sophisticated” data collection and analysis technologies. This system aids the Chinese official flag and identifies Turkish Muslims, mainly Uighurs, and arbitrarily detains them in camps.
This new technology has given the Chinese the ability to target law-abiding and peaceful Uyghurs and send them to these “political re-education centers” indefinitely without charge or due process. The Chinese government has named these centers “re-education centers” after they were discovered in a barely veiled attempt to divert guilt and avoid international criticism.
HRW announced that China has developed a big data program to identify Turkish Muslims in Xinjiang for possible detention. According to the report, the big data program is known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP). The system marks people for Chinese officials who then decide whether the person should be sent to a detention center. HRW also accessed a leaked list of over 2,000 detainees from Aksu Prefecture.
This list was used by the IJOP to select Uyghurs to be detained. The big data program has charged the brutal suppression of the Turkish Muslim minority in Xinjiang. The Communist Party of China, thanks to the development of big data, has adopted predictive policing programs that can help identify Uyghurs who are potentially dangerous to Chinese officials. The program collects data about people without their consent and uses this data to decide who needs to be detained.
Those marked by the system are picked up by Chinese officials and taken to detention centers, where they are held indefinitely without charge or trial. Her family members and relatives are also not informed that they have been detained and wonder what happened.
A large majority of those identified by the IJOP system who are also on the Aksu list have been detained for seemingly lawful and non-violent behavior. These findings are in stark contrast to Chinese propaganda that “sophisticated” technologies such as IJOP were used in Xinjiang to capture terrorists and violent criminals.
Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese government launched the “Strike Hard Campaign against Violence and Terrorism” – a false flag campaign to eliminate the Uyghurs. According to official statements, the IJOP system supports the campaign by identifying hidden “violent terrorists” and “criminal elements”. However, the IJOP regularly draws attention to lawful and non-violent behavior by ethnic minorities.
In recent years, the authorities have stepped up their repressive practices to forcibly assimilate Xinjiang with the rest of China. The party also wants to cut ties that Uyghurs or other ethnic minorities may have with foreign relatives or family members.
The second report by an international think tank, Center for Global Policy, found that the CCP has forced ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, mainly Uighur Muslims, to hand-pick cotton as a form of modern slavery. During their detention or shortly after their release, these ethnic minorities are forced to work in inhumane conditions for very little money to hand-pick cotton. Xinjiang produces 85% of China’s cotton, which is 20% of the world’s cotton. The discovery that the vast majority of cotton sourced from China is sourced through forced labor will have a drastic impact on global supply chains.
The Center for Global Policy’s report, “Forced Labor in Xinjiang: Labor Transfer and Mobilizing Ethnic Minorities to Pick Cotton,” highlighted that the Chinese government’s ethnic minorities in the region are coercive of hand-picking cotton. This enables the Chinese government to reduce reliance on Han Chinese migrant workers from outside Xinjiang and keep costs down.
Xinjiang produces more than 80% of all cotton in China. Some of the highest quality cotton in the world comes from the majority Xinjiang and Uighur regions of southern Xinjiang and grow most of the region’s cotton. Although China has the capability and has deployed mechanized harvesting machinery, the percentage varies widely by region, and most of Xinjiang’s cotton is still produced in regions with low levels of mechanization. This factor, coupled with the need to keep production costs as low as possible, is an incentive for a system of poorly paid ethnic minority workers.
The Chinese government also uses so-called “job transfer” systems to disrupt the lives of Uighur minorities and to provide labor for the cotton harvest. Job transfer refers to the transfer of farm workers such as farmers and pastoralists to full-time wage workers. Primarily, people in these systems are shifting to manufacturing, but also to the service sector, paying for seasonal agricultural labor such as cotton picking.
The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t just use ethnic minorities to pick cotton for economic gain. Another important goal that the Chinese government is achieving through this forced labor is to keep ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs under constant surveillance and employment. The Chinese government can easily keep track of workers who live and work in secure buildings with dormitories. The CCP finds it much easier to control the environment in these compounds than do farmers or pastoralists. The report also found that Aksu, Hotan, and Kashgar prefectures alone were coercive mobilization of nearly 500,000 cotton pickers.
For the first time, the report by the Center of Global Policy was able to show in concrete terms that ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, especially Uyghurs, were forced to become cotton pickers. The party also forced minorities to work in the cotton fields in order to better monitor and control minority communities. It was better for the CCP to let the Uyghurs pick cotton in the fields under the watchful eyes of their officials than to let them roam free as farmers and pastoralists.
This unfathomable revelation that China has forced ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to become cotton pickers has profound implications that extend beyond the borders of China and even Asia. The forced labor cotton from China travels to countries such as India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the cotton yarn is processed into clothing.
Some countries, such as the United States, have already begun to use forced labor to ban cotton exports from China from their markets. Homeland Security Minister Kenneth Cuccinelli has warned and stated that there is a good chance that cheap cotton goods from China were made using “slave labor” and that the actions of the Chinese government are among the worst possible violations of the law in the world today. US retail groups such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the National Retail Federation have welcomed the ban.
Organizations around the world have urged global fashion brands to cut ties with cotton and cotton products from China and Xinjiang. The Swedish fashion brand ‘H & M’ has already announced that it will end its ‘indirect’ relationship with a cotton supplier China on allegations of forced labor to obtain the workforce.
In March 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) suspended its licensing and security measures in the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang as allegations of forced labor and other human rights violations continued to be made in the region. Adidas and Lacoste have also pledged to end all activities with suppliers and contractors in connection with the use of Uyghur forced labor in Xinjiang.
This low level of mechanization means that Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities are forced to become cotton pickers. The big data system developed by the CCP identifies legitimate Uyghurs and considers them suspicious for everyday activities such as reading the Quran. The Uyghurs are detained without charge or trial and do not even have access to lawyers or their families.
While in detention or immediately after their release, Uyghurs are forced to pick cotton under the watchful eye of government officials. The CCP finds it much easier to control and monitor these minorities during their time as cotton pickers compared to their traditional calling as farmers and pastoralists.
A global movement has gained momentum in recent months, urging international fashion brands to sever ties with China over reports that the Chinese government has used slave labor. Brands like H&M, Adidas and Lacoste have already pledged to cut ties with suppliers in China that have been linked to the use of Uyghur slave labor.