On the first of March this year the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released a report called “Uyghurs for Sale“. But it seems to have been lost in the Covid flurry of 2020. This report indicates a huge breach of human rights. And we think every Australian needs to be aware of this. We have noticed the plight of the Uyghurs is being tossed around by ‘one liners’ on the news. The news focus on trade wars and pending cold wars with China. But can we please remember these are real people suffering and that something needs to done to end it?
Here are Three Things you Need to Know
1. Who are the Uyghur people?
The Uyghur people are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the Central Asian region. They are among the oldest Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia. Chinese records mention them from as early as the 3rd century CE.
The Uyghurs are mainly a sedentary village-dwelling people who live in the network of oases formed in the valleys and lower slopes of the Tien Shan, Pamirs, and related mountain systems. So the region is one of the most arid in the world. Hence, for centuries they have practiced irrigation to conserve their water supply for agriculture. (Lessons we could learn as our earth becomes drier.) Their principal food crops are wheat, corn (maize), kaoliang (a form of sorghum), and melons. The chief industrial crop is cotton, which has long been grown in the area.’ Brittanica.
2. What is happening to them in China?
At least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in China are incarcerated in prison camps. They are enduring starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labour and forced organ extraction. Resulting in a shocking human rights breach on our doorstep. And many of the products in our stores support this regime!
Recent research reveals a campaign of forced sterilisation and birth prevention. This is targeting at least 80% of Uyghur women of childbearing age in the four Uyghur-populated regions. This is an action which, could elevate this to the level of genocide, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention. However, many human rights activists claim it is already a case of genocide. It is just slower in process than other historical genocide instances.
“The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uyghur identity. China’s state media has stated that the goal is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins.” Read more.
Further Concerns Impacting Supply Chains
The ASPI report estimates that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019. And many of them were sent directly from detention camps. The report exposes this new phase in China’s social re-engineering campaign targeting minority citizens.
So the report reveals new evidence that factories across China are using forced Uyghur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme. And this is tainting the global supply chain. Based on official documents, satellite imagery and media reports, the document details 82 global brands (listed below) that researchers identified as having benefited directly or indirectly from this forced labour. Read the full report here.
This 5 minute video from the BBC investigates the fact that the Uyghurs are being used in forced labour to pick cotton and work in factories within their prison.
3. What action is being taken?
The ASPI recommendations are:
Foreign governments, businesses and civil society groups should identify opportunities to increase pressure on the Chinese government to end the use of Uyghur forced labour and extrajudicial detentions.
This should include pressuring the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on Forced Labour, 1930 (No. 29) and Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention.
Consumers and consumer advocacy groups should demand companies that manufacture in China conduct human rights due diligence on their supply chains. This is to ensure that they uphold basic human rights. And they are not complicit in any coercive labour schemes.
Know the Brands that are Linked
As consumers we need to know the list of the 82 brands for when we are making buying decisions…
Abercrombie & Finch, Acer, Adidas, Alstom, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, Bestway, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Calvin Klein, Candy, Carter’s, Cerruti 1881, Changan Automobile, Cisco, CRRC, Dell, Electrolux, Fila, Founder Group, FAG Group (automobiles), Gap, Geely Auto, General Motors, Google, Goertek, H&M, Haier, Hart Schaffner Max, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Jack & Jones, Jaguar, Japan Display Inc, L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Land rover, Lenovo, LG, Li-Ning, Mayor, Meizu, Mercedes Benz, MG, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Mitsumi, Nike, Nintendo, Nokia, Oculus, Oppo, Panasonic, Polo Ralph Loren, Puma, SAIC Motor, Samsung, SGMW, Sharp, Siemens, Sketchers, Sony, TDK, Tommy Hilfiger, Toshiba, Tsinghua Tongfang, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, Vivo, Volkswagon, Xiaomi, Zara, Zegna, ZTE.
The list is extensive. You can see why we say that everyone has slaves working for them.
We also know that every company is impacted by slavery in their supply chain somewhere. So we need to be celebrating the companies that are trying to do something about it. And as consumers we can also try to buy local and as less often.
‘Western governments and corporations must end their involvement in implicated factories. Therefore making it neither economically nor politically advantageous for the Chinese government to continue its current treatment of these people. We can make a difference.’ Freedom United.
Other Actions being Taken
Currently, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Bill is before the US Senate. Having passed the lower house of Congress in September. The bill would impose restrictions on products produced in Xinjiang. Because this is where the practice of Uyghur forced labour happens inside and outside the camps.
On Thursday 17th December 2020, ‘EU parliament members expressed their concerns about what they described as the “increasingly oppressive regime” in Beijing. The body’s statement urges China to “put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for criminal offenses of members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities. Read the details here.
Faith Leaders Respond
Recently the Pope made comment on the situation which will raise the awareness of this situation to new levels.
In his new book Let Us Dream, due out on 1 December, the pontiff listed the “poor Uighurs” among examples of groups persecuted for their faith. Read More here.
Additionally, five serving Church of England Bishops and dozens of other faith leaders, recently signed a resolute public statement. This statement highlights the potential genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China. They call it: “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”
“We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities. These need our attention. But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghurs.” Full statement.
What is Australia doing?
Fortunately the Modern Slavery Act 2018 is now enforced in Australia. This will put pressure on these companies and many other companies to check their supply chains.
‘South Australian independent Rex Patrick is calling on the Federal Government to follow the lead of the United States, where Congress has just passed legislation forcing companies to disclose details of their supply chains.
“We’ve seen a million Uyghurs locked up in China in internment camps, and they’ve been locked up for political purposes,” Senator Patrick said.’ read more.
Eldana Abbas from the Australian Uyghur Tangritah Women’s Association, an organisation representing Uighur and Turkic women and youth in Australia, said the local Uighur community believes the introduction of the bill to parliament is a “big step forward.” “This the first time this kind of bill has been introduced in Australia. It is quite exciting, we absolutely hope this will become law in Australia,” she said.’ SBS News
Australia has been critical of human rights abuses in Xinjiang in recent years, with reports of forced sterilisations and abortions of Uyghur women fuelling international debate.
UPDATE: 15/2/21 – The Freedom Hub has partnered with a group of anti-slavery organisations and made a submission to parliament regarding this crisis. You can read that submission in full HERE
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by this, well done, you have a sincere heart. It overwhelms us at the Freedom Hub too. But we will not give up raising awareness. It is easy to look back wonder, how did the world allow the Nazi regime try to wipe out a race. And yet here we are, seeing this happen again on our door step.
Sadly we have no solutions for you. This is not an easy fix. But let’s all at least try to be a voice for these beautiful people. Can you imagine being trapped like this and seeing your race, your heritage being wiped from existence?
We all rally when an animal species is about to be come extinct. Or when we see our cute koalas losing their habitat during the bushfires. But what about an ancient culture of people? Surely we can do more.
Freedom United have a campaign running where you can be active. So all you need to do is click on this link: ‘ enabling you to write directly to Nike, Uniqlo and Zara. These are three of the world’s biggest clothing brands by revenue. Also each comes from a different region of the world: North America, Asia, and Europe, respectively. Additionally, these three companies claim to have no forced labour in their supply chain.’
There are a few more actions that Freedom United suggest so if you want to be even more active check out this page here.
Finally, if you would like to learn more watch this special panel event of experts discussing the situation. Click Here.
As the fight continues, we will keep you up to date. Also, we will update this blog with latest news and write further blogs if required. So please keep watching our social media especially our Linkedin page for updates.
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