According to a recent piece from Fast Company, prisoners in Chinese internment camps are being forced to produce goods for western brands.
The camps — which the Chinese government refers to as “vocational training centers” — are used to detain more than one million Uyghurs, “a Muslim ethnic minority living in the Xinjiang autonomous region in China.” And causes for detainment, according to the article, include “growing a beard, international travel, WhatsApp usage, or for no known reason at all.”
And now, “new evidence has emerged that some of these Uyghurs being coerced to work in factories that make apparel and clothing — and may supply American retailers.” It’s also been reported that the Chinese government is actually providing subsidies to the factories staffed with Uyghurs. And those subsidies, coupled with the low (well, free) cost of labor is turning the region into a new manufacturing hub.
The increased manufacturing activity in the region has led a group of US-based “scholars and experts” to take the issue up with American legislators. In addition to lobbying for “executive action… to prevent Xinjiang from trading with the United States or the rest of the world,” and imposing “sanctions on companies that have directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuses,” the group also says that brands need to step up and verify their supply chains.
“Companies themselves should be responsible for proving that their products were not made using coerced or forced labor,” the group asserts. Especially as it’s “hard to get a clear view of what was happening in Xinjiang because authorities in the region aren’t giving journalists, officials, or inspection teams much insight into the conditions into the factories there.”
You can read more about it at Fast Company.