More than half a million people from ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang have been forced to pick cotton, on a much larger scale than previously thought, new research suggests.
The Xinjiang region produces more than 20% of the world’s cotton and 84% of China’s cotton, but according to a new report Published Tuesday by the Center for Global Policy, there is significant evidence that it is “tainted” by human rights abuses, including alleged forced labor by Uighurs and other Turkish Muslim minorities.
The revelations came as the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had no jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang.
This year, the United States imposed sanctions and restrictions on cotton imports on suppliers controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a paramilitary production entity that produces one-third of Xinjiang’s cotton, on human rights grounds. . But according to the report, those concerns extend beyond the XPCC to the entire region. He recommended that the US government expand its import restrictions to cover all Xinjiang cotton, not just cotton produced by the XPCC regions.
The report, written by Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher specializing in Xinjiang and Tibet – analyzed government documents and state media reports to determine that authorities were likely using allegedly coercive “labor transfer programs” to provide hundreds of thousands of workers to pick cotton.
China’s labor transfer plan is supposed to be part of the government’s massive poverty alleviation campaign, but mounting evidence indicates that it targets Uighur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and coerces participation.
While mechanized picking in the XPCC regions has risen to around 83%, areas in southern Xinjiang, which produce a much higher proportion of the cotton, still rely heavily on manual picking. And although the number of workers brought in from other provinces for the harvest season had decreased, the report found that the proportion of workers from local ethnic minorities had increased dramatically.
It was estimated that 570,000 people passed through just three large minority prefectures, Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar, and that work programs in other ethnic minority regions, as well as prison labor, would likely add hundreds of thousands to the figure.
Work schedules are not secret; State media often write about them as shining examples of how the government helps millions of poor people to work, but these articles also contain clues about their coercive nature. Transferred workers are often sent away from their homes, forced to live on site in factories, and subjected to ideological training.
Publications about work plans often include references to policies that discourage “illegal religious activities” and change thoughts and behaviors.
A 2019 state media report on the cotton picking program proclaimed a participant’s success in “gradually overcoming the disadvantages of lack of land, ingrained thoughts of being lazy, insufficient internal motivation, and little awareness of going out to work.” .
Another reported on the need to “get rid of the old-fashioned, blocked and lazy thoughts of peasants and shepherds.”
In September, Zenz’s investigation, which was corroborated by Reuters, found that Tibetan authorities were massively expanding the labor transfer program, setting quotas to move hundreds of thousands of people from their lands to job training facilities. military style.
China’s treatment of minority populations, including the mass internment of people in re-education camps, the forced sterilization of women, technological and human surveillance, has been labeled cultural genocide by analysts. China denies the accusations, saying the camps are vocational training centers needed to combat religious extremism. In September, the government confirmed that around 1.29 million people pass through the centers each year.
It has led to international condemnation, including sanctions and other diplomatic measures against China, which maintains its denial of any wrongdoing.
In July, the exiled Uyghurs submitted an evidence file to the ICC asking it to investigate crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang. On Monday, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it could not do so because the alleged crimes occurred within China, which was outside the jurisdiction of the ICC.
The ICC also found “no basis to proceed” on separate allegations of forced deportations, which the Uyghur group had said occurred in Tajikistan and Cambodia, both ICC signatories.
Additional reporting by Pei Lin Wu
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