The government recently announced that it will stop importing clothing, precious metals, and other goods suspected of having been produced by forced labor in various parts of the world. One of the companies sanctioned is Hetian Taida Apparel Co. Ltd., which is located in Xinjiang, a region of China strongly questioned in recent years for human rights violations.
This new measure of the Trump administration is part of its efforts to eradicate slave labor in the world amid the trade war with the China.
“The message here is that one of the ways the United States and China can work together is to ensure that forced labor is not used anymore,” said Brenda Smith, an official with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“If we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves,” said Mark Morgan, acting CBP commissioner.
Xinjiang, located in the northwest of China, has recently been on the front page of the main media in the world for serious human rights violations committed by companies and by the authorities of the communist regime against the local population.
The Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC), a Washington-based NGO that monitors working conditions around the world, issued a harsh report this year noting that Hetian Taida operates “an internment and forced-labor camp” in the context of the “appalling human rights disaster unfolding in Xinjiang province.”
Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, is predominately a Uighur ethnic group region, is strongly persecuted for its belief by the Chinese atheistic-communist regime.
“The Chinese government is carrying out a massive and brutal repression of the Uighur population, including the detention of more than one million people in internment camps,” says the WRC document.
“In these detention centers, which the U.S. government has called “concentration camps,” Uighurs are denied the right to worship and speak their native language and are subjected to physical and psychological abuse, political indoctrination, and forced labor,” it says.
Li Fang, a Chinese dissident currently residing in Finland, through an arduous Google Earth search, was able to locate 19 possible prisons and 15 possible re-education camps just in Kashgar Prefecture in Xinjiang. These places would have the capacity to accommodate half a million people, according to The Epoch Times.
Faced with a wave of denunciations in the international media and NGOs, the Chinese authorities acknowledged in October 2018 the existence of what they called “vocational training centers.”
Shohret Zahir, the governor of Xinjiang, in an interview published by the state media of the Chinese regime and quoted by AP, pointed out that they try “to achieve a seamless connection between school teaching and social employment, so that after finishing their courses, the trainees will be able to find jobs and earn a well-off life.”
However, according to an Associated Press report at the end of last year, in these forced labor camps some of these people were directly detained and were not paid any wages.
A former Xinjiang TV reporter in exile told the U.S. agency that during his detention, young people from his camp were transferred in the mornings to work in carpentry and a cement factory without any financial compensation.
“The camp paid no money, not a penny,” he said, asking to be identified only by his first name, Elyar, because he still has relatives in Xinjiang. “Even for necessities, such as things to shower with or sleep at night, they would call our families outside to get them to pay for it,” he said.
“American companies importing from these places should know that these products are made by people who are treated like slaves,” Rushan Abbas, a Uighur who resides in Washington and has a sister detained in forced-labor camps, told The Associated Press.
Religious persecutions in China
The Uighur and Kazakh ethnic Muslim minorities reside mainly in northwest China and their legacy dates back to ancient traders on the Silk Road.
However, with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) usurping power in 1949 and the persecution of religious believers in recent decades and violent attacks on Uighurs have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.
Approximately two years ago, the authorities launched a major campaign of detention and re-education. They also use checkpoints, GPS tracking and facial scan cameras to monitor ethnic minorities in the region. The slightest infraction can lead someone to internment camps, The Associated Press detailed.
Nathan Ruser, a cyberpolitics researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), analyzed satellite imagery for The Associated Press and discovered that, in the case of Hetian Taida, the garment factory and the government-run training camp are connected by a fenced-in road.
“There are clear fences between the buildings and walls that limit movement. Detainees can only access the factories area through walkways, and the entire facility is closed,” he added.
According to Associated Press research, during 2018, at least 10 shipments of containers filled with thousands of polyester woven T-shirts and trousers were made for men, women, and youth. Exports were directed to the United States, particularly to Badger Sportswear, a sporting goods chain.
“Not only is the Chinese government detaining over a million Uighurs and other Muslims, forcing them to revoke their faith and profess loyalty to the Communist Party, they are now profiting from their labor,” denounced Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
“U.S. consumers should not be buying and U.S. businesses should not be importing goods made in modern-day concentration camps,” Smith added, according to The Associated Press (AP).
People who were detained in these forced-labor camps told the U.S. agency they received beatings, solitary confinement, and other punishments for not reciting Communist Party songs, names and phrases.
The forced labor program is part of the Chinese regime’s plan to develop Xinjiang’s economy by building huge industrial parks. Another internment camp AP visited was inside an industrial complex called Kunshan Industrial Park, where—according to local authorities—clothes and food are manufactured.
Far from the image of a traditional Western factory, in this place you can see a hospital, a police station, fireplaces, dormitories, and a building with a sign that says “House of the Workers” from outside the barbed wire fence. Another section resembled a prison, with watchtowers and high walls, the AP reported.
Many of those with relatives in such camps said that their loved ones were well educated with well-paying jobs before their arrest, and that they did not need to work in “a poverty alleviation program” (as defined by the CCP).
Nurbakyt Kaliaskar, the wife of a sheepherder in Kazakhstan, said her daughter, Rezila Nulale, 25, graduated from university with a well-paying advertising job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, where she lived a typical urban lifestyle with a computer, an apartment in the downtown, and more.
However, when she returned to Xinjiang after visiting her family across the border in Kazakhstan in august 2018, Nulale disappeared. She did not answer any phone calls and stopped showing up for work.
Four months later, a stranger contacted Kaliaskar and confirmed her worst fear: her daughter had been detained for “political training.” The mother learned that her daughter was not being paid and had to meet a daily quota of three pieces of clothing. She could not leave.
A former detainee, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to protect himself and his family, said that other detainees in his camp were also forced to work in distant factories. This person pointed out that if they attempted to flee the factories, they were warned that they would be taken directly back to the camps to receive “additional education.”
Chao Yu is a graduate of Tsinghua University in China. In 1999, after the communist regime began its campaign against the spiritual practice Falun Dafa, he helped foreign correspondents develop secure channels of communication, evade authorities, and conduct interviews with persecuted Falun Dafa supporters. Because of his activities, Yu, his family, and friends were sentenced to long prison terms and have spent years in prison.
In a recent article, Chao described that the cruelty of slave labor in Xinjiang is such that prisoners break their legs or drink another person’s infected urine in order to have a chance to escape from that place.
Chao said he spoke with a prisoner who told him that in Xinjiang Province, prisoners broke their own legs with stones to escape slave labor. This person recognized that he also had to pretend that he had been injured while working, since “falsifying the disease to avoid work” was severely punished.
He described how an inmate was isolated after contracting hepatitis. Other prisoners asked him, through people who knew him, if he could give them some of his urine in the hope that they, too, might be infected with hepatitis. However, Chao described, the prisoner with hepatitis would only choose his best friend to offer him the urine, since the person who wanted to get sick, as well as the sick prisoner himself, would be severely punished if the fact was discovered.
In these places, “you can’t give urine to someone in a lunch box, since it’s definitely inspected by experienced prison guards,” Chao explained.
“Therefore, you need to get a towel to absorb the valuable, highly infectious urine from the hepatitis carrier. The towel was passed to his friend, who sucked on this towel with all his might,” he described.
An unprecedented horror
Forced labor camps in Xinjiang expose a dark reality that is also coming to light: the forced removal of organs to be traded for transplants.
On Sept. 26, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned of the “brutal and terrifying” forced removal of organs in China from Falun Dafa practitioners, an ancient Chinese spiritual meditation discipline, also known as Falun Gong, which is brutally persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.
“The Chinese Communist Party not only tortures and murders Falun Gong practitioners. It also removes their organs on a massive scale,” Cruz denounced in his speech at a conference organized by the Foundation Monument to the Victims of Communism in Washington.
“The next time someone is celebrating our friends in the Chinese government, it may be worth asking, ‘Are you often in the practice of palling around with organ harvesters?'” Cruz said, further condemning the Chinese regime’s grave abuses against Christians who have house churches, Uighurs, and Tibetan Buddhists.
Susie Hughes, co-founder of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), said, “We need an urgent response to save these people’s lives.”
Within this framework, Chinese businessmen and officials support the trade war initiated by Trump because they understand that it will allow China to move toward greater freedom and free itself from the iron grip of the CCP in society and in the private.
Chen Pokong, a well-known Chinese analyst based in the United States, recently said that, in fact, within the CCP, there are many officials who “yearn for democracy and freedom, and hope that China will move forward, want China to have greater reform and openness, and enter a civilized world.”