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Made in China: Slavery in Xinjiang


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Since Donald Trump’s administration began a wave of sanctions on Chinese companies and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials over allegations of victims belonging to religious minorities in Xinjiang being subjected to genocide, forced labor, persecution and indoctrination in concentration camps in the Xinjiang region, some Western companies were forced to change supplies and issue statements rejecting the abuses of the Chinese giant.

The Xinjiang region is renowned for its extraction of minerals such as coal, raw materials such as cotton and foodstuffs such as tomatoes. It is also home to some of the headquarters that manufacture heavy cargo, automobiles and textiles.

Independent researchers, such as Adrian Zenz, along with some victims who have since been recognized by the U.S. government in sanctioning China, exposed some major brands that benefit from the low costs of producing in Xinjiang.

Western giants Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Adidas, Volkswagen and Muji, among others, either have a headquarters themselves, or their supply chain includes companies located in Xinjiang that have been the subject of forced labor allegations.

As a result, the United States during 2020 banned the import of some raw materials such as cotton and tomatoes and took the decision to sanction companies that supply goods with forced labor.

Beijing has categorically denied these accusations and has returned to the United States sanctions and restrictions on companies and politicians who have denounced human rights violations.

With the implementation of the five-year plan in February 2021, the CCP is not willing to tolerate denunciations on its territory. It constantly asserts that what happens in Xinjiang is part of its internal policy and rejects interference from other states.

Joe Biden’s administration continues with the American policy of denouncing the genocide of religious minorities, especially uyghurs, and has managed to gain the support of Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to echo the denunciations and issue more sanctions against China.

China, for its part, found in Russia a strategic ally to confront what Beijing calls “foreign interference in internal affairs”, and began a boycott of companies that had previously shown their concern for the situation of minorities in Xinjiang.

Made in China, genocide and forced labor

The United States verified facts and victims’ claims and determined that “The People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

On the other hand, renowned researchers such as Adrian Zenz, found that at least 500,000 people are victims of forced labor and another 1.6 million risk being interned in concentration camps and subjected to slavery.

Burberry is the first luxury brand to suffer a Chinese backlash over Xinjiang. International clothing brands Fila, Hugo Boss, H&M, Nike and Adidas are also experiencing backlash in China for refusing to buy cotton from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor and genocide in the region. (Image: EFE)

The United States demanded to China respect international legal order and release the people detained in the camps located in Xinjiang and other regions of the Asian giant.

The State Department report also called on China to cease “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”

Chinese boycott of the defense of human rights

The youth of the Communist Party of China began a series of threats and actions against the clothing brands H&M and Nike, mainly for speaking out against human rights violations in China.

Well-known Chinese artists broke commercial ties with the brands and some businessmen have started to sell their shares in these companies, reporting stock market declines, even, the H&M brand stopped appearing in Chinese digital maps and search channels.

People walk past an H&M store in a shopping area in Sanlitun in Beijing, China, March 25, 2021. The Swedish brand has been one of the most affected with the Chinese boycott. (Image: EFE)

Previously, some South Korean, European and American companies suffered similar damage in the Chinese market. Seoul’s closeness with Washington or the recognition of Hong Kong and its protests or Taiwan as an independent country, have unleashed communist fury.

Capitalism under a dictatorship

China’s rise with capitalist policies hand in hand with a dictatorial regime has paid off in the nation. It is clear that intellectual property plagiarism, diplomatic coercion and strategies far removed from international laws have given China a solid advantage.

Chinese society is growing thanks to foreign investors relocating their headquarters attracted by cheap labor, cheap minerals and among other advantages that the CCP offers.

Apple and Coca-Cola pressure Washington not to impose more sanctions on China for human rights violations in Xinjiang. (Image: EFE)

As a result, China has become the second world power but also one of the most polluted countries, which has plunged its population into a real hell, with emissions that affect human health.

However, the reality is far from changing, as China represents an emerging market that governments and businessmen are not willing to abandon.

China’s boycott of companies that speak out against human rights violations may be matched in the West by movements to boycott companies that use cotton or supply slave labor.

Slavery in Xinjiang may have gone unnoticed like what happened in Tibet, however, the work done by the previous American administration and, so far, continued by the Biden administration, have brought some consequences to members of the CCP and have set the West’s sights on 21st century concentration camps in China.

Camilo Bello is a consultant focused on Asia Pacific studies and has experience in strategic management. He has studied law in Colombia and is currently pursuing studies in language and history at National Taiwan Normal University. He has collaborated with Students for Freedom in Hong Kong and Taiwan // Camilo es consultor enfocado en estudios de Asia Pacífico y experiencia en gestión estratégica. Cuenta con estudios en Derecho en Colombia y actualmente se encuentra realizando estudios en lenguaje e historia en National Taiwan Normal University. Colaborador de Estudiantes por la Libertad en Hong Kong y Taiwán

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