BEIJING: Hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority workers in northwest China Xinjiang Region are forced to pick cotton through a government enforcement program, a report said.
The study, released Monday by the Washington-based think tank Center for Global Policy, is likely to put more pressure on global brands like Nike, Gap and Adidas, which are alleged to have used Uyghur forced labor in their textile supply chains.
Human rights activists said Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial detention camps that have detained at least one million people that China has defended as vocational training centers to combat extremism.
The report, which cited online government documents, said the total number of people involved in three Uighur-majority regions exceeded the 2018 estimate of 517,000 people picking cotton under the program by hundreds of thousands.
The researchers warned of the “potentially drastic consequences” for global cotton supply chains, given that Xinjiang produces more than 20 percent of the world’s cotton and around a fifth of the yarn used in the US comes from the region.
The BBC reported that it asked 30 major international brands if they intend to continue sourcing products from China based on the results. Of those who responded, only four said they strictly require items to be sourced from all over China Do not use raw cotton from Xinjiang.
Beijing All inmates have “graduated” from the centers, but reports suggest that many former inmates have been transferred to low-skilled manufacturing factories that are often connected to the camps.
However, the think tank report states that the participants in the job transfer system were closely monitored by the police, with point-to-point referrals, “military management” and ideological training citing government documents.
“It is clear that job transfers for cotton picking carry a very high risk of forced labor,” wrote Adrian Zenz, who uncovered the documents, in the report.
“Some minorities can show some degree of consent to this process and they can benefit financially from it. However, it is impossible to define where coercion ends and where local consent can begin.”
The report also states that there is a strong ideological incentive to enforce the system, as increasing rural incomes enables civil servants to meet state-mandated poverty reduction goals.
China has firmly denied allegations of forced labor Uighurs in Xinjiang and says training programs, work programs and better education have helped eradicate extremism in the region.
When asked about the report on Tuesday, Beijing said that workers “of all ethnicities in Xinjiang sign employment contracts with companies based on their voluntary career choices.”
State Department spokesman Wang Wenbin also attacked the report’s author, Zenz, saying he was the “backbone of an anti-China research organization created under the manipulation of US intelligence, which is mainly fabricating rumors against China and defamed China “.
Earlier this month, the US banned imports of cotton produced by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a large paramilitary unit that accounts for about a third of the crop produced in the entire region.
Another bill to ban all imports from Xinjiang has yet to be passed by the US Senate.