A chief expert for the U.N., Tomoya Obokata, a Japanese specialist in transnational organized crime, human trafficking, and modern slavery, issued a report last week accusing the Chinese Communist Party of enslaving members of the Uighur, Kazakh and other minorities in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and use similar practices against the people of Tibet.
The report covers a long list of practices considered modern slavery. It states: “The Special Rapporteur considers it reasonable to conclude that forced labor among Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing has occurred in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.” (see report here)
Obokata evaluated the situation based on available information. He “detailed two different systems by State mandate:(a) the system of vocational education and training centers, under which minorities are detained and subjected to labor practices; and (b) poverty alleviation through the labor transfer system, in which surplus rural workers are transferred to secondary or tertiary sector work.”
It should be noted that what the communist regime considers “vocational education and training centers,” according to several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are concentration camps in which inmates are subjected to brainwashing and long hours of forced labor.
The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent group of human rights legal experts, concluded last year after reviewing evidence and interviewing survivors that China was committing genocide “beyond a reasonable doubt” against the population of East Turkistan.
Detainees are victims of a long list of atrocities including slavery, as well as communist indoctrination, torture, gang rape, forced sterilization. There is also consistent evidence on the theft of organs from the living.
In the report Obokata accused the CCP of using “excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence, and other inhuman or degrading treatment” to subdue its slaves. He concluded that “some cases may amount to slavery as a crime against humanity.” Obokata added that he had collected evidence of “similar practices” to subdue and enslave the people of Tibet, “where an extensive labor transfer program has mainly displaced farmers, herders, and other rural workers to low quality skilled and low-paid employment.”
The Jamestown Foundation conducted a study in 2020 and found evidence indicating the government is sending about half a million Tibetans to concentration camps similar to those found in Xinjiang.
The report is a direct contradiction to the position held by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. After her visit to China Bachelet said she admires the Communist Party’s achievements in human rights and claims that the CCP closed the concentration camps in Xinjiang. Her comments have garnered much criticism and complaints that she should have denounced the tragic situation. Independent have not been able to confirm that the concentration camps have been closed.
A report by the Strategic Policy Institute of Australia (ASPI) titled “Uyghurs for Sale” details with satellite images, testimonies and academic research how the CCP moves massive numbers of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to factories across the country. Far from their homes, at the end of the workday they are forced to receive ideological re-education and are forbidden to practice their religion. ASPI also discovered that the 27 factories that benefit from slave labor—supplying products to 83 global brands, such as Adidas, Nintendo, BMW, Apple, and Nike among others.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin criticized Obokata saying: “A certain special rapporteur chooses to believe lies and disinformation about Xinjiang spread by the United States and some other Western countries and anti-China forces, abuses his authority, blatantly violates the code of conduct of the special procedure, maliciously defames and denigrates China, and serves as a political tool for anti-China forces. China strongly condemns this.”
Different stories, same suffering
“In China, they want you to become a new socialist person, and that’s the purpose of the labor camps,.. the main job in the prison camp is to survive, to find food, that’s all.” says Harry Wu in the documentary “Laogai: The Tragic History of China’s Secret Labor Camps,” a survivor of the prison system known as “laogai,” which means “reform through work.”
The Chinese Communist Party has used forced labor camps since coming to power in 1949. Soviet experts came to the country at Mao’s invitation to develop a prison system inspired by Russian gulags. Over time, these camps were populated by “counterrevolutionaries,” political dissidents, and ethnic minorities considered in rebellion—Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners.
The documentary “Letter from Masanjia’” tells the story of Sun Yi, imprisoned in the Masanjia forced labor camp for practicing the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. Sun manages to send a letter asking for help in one of the products manufactured at the camp. The letter is discovered by a housewife in the United States. The news goes viral, and soon the world witnesses the atrocities committed in these centers of detention.
Following international pressure, the Chinese communist regime announced the abolition of the forced labor network in 2013. But the testimonies of thousands of survivors and the investigations of dozens of human rights organizations seem to point to the contrary.