BEIJING: Hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority workers in northwest China Xinjiang the region is forced to harvest cotton through a coercive state scheme, a report said.
Research released Monday by the Washington-based think tank of the Center for Global Policy is likely to put more pressure on global brands like Nike, Gap and Adidas, which have been accused of using Uighur forced labor in their textile supply chains.
Rights activists said Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps that have imprisoned at least one million people, which China has defended as vocational training centers to counter extremism.
The report – which references online government documents – says the total number of people involved in three Uyghur-majority regions exceeds a 2018 estimate of 517,000 people forced to harvest cotton as part of the hundreds of thousands program.
The researchers warned of “potentially drastic consequences” for global cotton supply chains, with Xinjiang producing more than 20 percent of the world’s cotton and about one-fifth of the yarn used in the United States coming from the region.
The BBC reported asking 30 major international brands if they intended to continue sourcing products from China following the results – of those who responded, only four said they have a strict policy to require items from anywhere in the China do it. do not use raw Xinjiang cotton.
Beijing he said all inmates had “graduated” from the centers, but reports suggested that many ex-inmates were being transferred to low-skilled factory jobs, often related to camps.
But the think tank’s report said participants in the job transfer program were heavily guarded by police, with point-to-point transfers, “military-style management” and ideological training, citing government documents.
“It is clear that labor transfers for cotton harvesting carry a very high risk of forced labor,” Adrian Zenz, who uncovered the documents, wrote in the report.
“Some minorities may show some degree of consensus in relation to this process, and they may benefit financially. However … it is impossible to define where coercion ends and where local consensus can begin.”
The report also says there is a strong ideological incentive to enforce the regime, as rising rural incomes allow officials to meet state-imposed poverty reduction goals.
China has firmly denied the allegations of involvement of forced labor Uighurs in Xinjiang and says that training programs, work patterns and better education have helped to eradicate extremism in the region.
Asked about the report on Tuesday, Beijing said workers “of all ethnicities in Xinjiang sign employment contracts with companies based on their voluntary choice of employment.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also attacked the author of the report Zenz, saying he was “the backbone of an anti-Chinese research organization created under the manipulation of the US intelligence agency, which mainly rumors against. China and slanders China “.
Earlier this month, the United States banned imports of cotton produced by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a major paramilitary entity, which accounts for about a third of the crop produced in the entire region.
Another proposed bill banning all imports from Xinjiang has yet to pass in the US Senate.