China promises ‘sustained efforts’ on forced labor, as report reveals factories in 135 Xinjiang detention camps

Foreign Affairs

In order to clinch an investment deal with the EU, China reportedly said it would make “sustained efforts” to ratify international conventions against forced labor. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed reported that at least 135 detention camps in Xinjiang have factories where forced labor likely occurs.

Illustrated satellite photo via BuzzFeed.

According to Deutsche Welle, the EU and China have overcome hurdles in negotiations to agree on an investment deal. One of the key moves by China to get the deal done is a commitment “to ‘make continued and sustained efforts’ to pursue the ratification of ILO [International Labour Organization] fundamental Conventions on forced labor.”

But the evidence of forced labor keeps piling up: BuzzFeed has published the fourth part of an investigation into China’s system of repression against Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region, and found that out of hundreds of detention compounds, “at least 135” also have factory buildings.

  • The report admits that while it is near impossible to verify that forced labor is occuring in any single site, “when factories are located inside internment compounds — cut off from the world by high walls and barbed wire — it beggars belief to claim workers are there willingly.”
  • In addition to satellite photos, BuzzFeed drew on multiple interviews with named sources who worked in forced labor conditions in Xinjiang, and publicly available documents.
  • One of those documents: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that “100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minority ex-detainees in China may be working in conditions of forced labor following detention in re-education camps.”

Separately, the Washington Post reports: “New documents show Lens Technology, which makes iPhone glass and is owned by China’s richest woman, received Uyghur Muslim laborers transferred from Xinjiang.”

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