The Chinese government has profited enormously from the forced labour of the Uyghur people and if brands and retailers stop sourcing goods from the Uyghur region, it would help end this widespread repression, writes Jewher Ilham, who is also a part of the “Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region”, in an opinion piece published in CNN.
Notably, approximately 20 per cent of the world’s cotton is produced in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs are forced to pick it by hand, which in turn means that cotton garments on the global market are at high risk of being made with Uyghur forced labor. Thus, companies agreeing to free their supply chain of any material coming from Xinjiang will be a demonstration against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.
Despite the difficulty in shifting operations and removing Xinjiang from the supply chain, Ilham believes that it is the only way companies can ensure not being a part of Uyghur forced labor as the Chinese government’s surveillance campaign makes it impossible to perform due diligence in the region.
Ilham, whose father has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Chinese government for standing up for Uyghurs, opines that the situation has worsened since her father’s detention in 2013.
The government has rapidly accelerated its campaign of oppression with forced sterilization, forced labor, constant surveillance, and other abuses making it impossible for Uyghurs to survive in China, she writes.
According to a 2020 Chinese government white paper, around 1.29 million people in Xinjiang were subject to vocational “training” annually between 2014 and 2019. However, the Chinese government has advocated its campaign against the Uyghurs as “poverty alleviation” and preventing terrorism, describing detention centers as “vocational training centers” where Uyghurs are educated and given the skills to thrive economically.
With China’s “training centers” subjecting Uyghurs to indoctrination and the renunciation of their language and religion, it is clear that the Chinese government’s vision of re-educating Uyghurs is premised on the erasure of their culture and the denial of their basic human rights, according to Ilham.