The Uighurs (a minority group in Xinjiang, China) have been transferred out of detention camps to work in factories across the country for major corporations, from huge technology firms like Apple, Samsung and Huawei, to lifestyle brands such as Nike and Gap, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). The report also highlighted that at least 2,700 of the displaced Uighur workers have been in Apple’s supply chain since 2017.
The ASPI report further stated that the transfer of labour was part of a state-sponsored program known as the ‘Xinjiang Aid’. From 2017 to 2019, there had been an estimated 80,000 Uighurs displaced and allocated to factories under the policy. China had considered this “program” to be the next step in re-educating the Uighurs.
What happens in these factories?
During working hours, Uighurs workers are subjected to ‘military-style management’ where they lead a “harsh, segregated life”. It is compulsory for them to attend Mandarin lessons, take part in nationalistic education and are barred from practising their religion. The Uighur workers are reportedly exploited in these factories and are forced to work under coercive conditions. The Uighurs are also under perpetual scrutiny by the Chinese government, where “the workers’ ideology and behaviour are closely monitored”, as mentioned in the ASPI report.
What is the significance of the ASPI report?
China’s detainment and repression of the Uighurs has been ongoing for years. However, this recent crackdown by the Chinese government to displace thousands of Uighurs has sparked greater debate regarding China’s infringement on the rights of the Uighur community. On top of this, this has opened conversations on the ethical implications of supporting big technology brands and the exploitative labour in their supply chains. Just think, with every swipe made on your precious iPhones, you might be touching the hands of the exploited labourers who made it and perpetuating this horrific cycle of oppression.