New law to combat forced labor in China sparks enforcement debate

“President Joe Biden..signed a bill to curb forced labor in China that U.S. business groups and trade experts warn will inflict unnecessary pain on U.S. firms and punish legitimately employed Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was approved after more than a year’s delay, is designed to insulate U.S. companies and consumers from complicity in forced labor practices in Xinjiang. The U.S. government has concluded that the practices are among abusive state policies targeting Uyghurs that constitute genocide.

But industry groups and trade lawyers say the law’s strict compliance standards coupled with problematic Customs and Border Protection enforcement will harm both U.S. business interests and Uyghur Muslims.”

““If you’re a company who is manufacturing in that area, you’re going to need to prove that slaves didn’t make it. The presumption is on you,” Rubio said after the bill’s Dec. 16 Senate passage.”

“Assertions of the law’s stringent compliance standards are no exaggeration. It imposes a presumption of guilt in terms of forced labor links to any Xinjiang-sourced imports — predominately agricultural and chemical products — and obligates importers to provide documentation that proves its Xinjiang supply chains are not tied to forced labor.

The experience of solar and apparel companies from previous forced labor enforcement actions by Customs and Border Protection suggest that the new law’s compliance standards will be “practically impossible” to meet, said former CBP trade lawyer Richard Mojica.”

“Mojica and other trade lawyers say the law’s compliance requirements will most seriously impact small- and medium-sized U.S. firms that lack in-house expertise to reliably map complex overseas supply chains.”

Terrorwashing a Genocide

“In The War on the Uyghurs, Sean Roberts begins the arduous task of probing these and other mysteries of the first two decades of the global war on terror. In doing so, he shows how the United States’ efforts to build an international consensus for its counterterrorism projects had far-reaching consequences on the other side of the world, changing the relationship between the Chinese state and its long-oppressed Uyghur minority. He also shows how, during that same period—apart from any Western influence—the Chinese government became increasingly brazen in its oppression of Muslim and Turkic minorities, steadily curtailing freedoms of movement, assembly, and speech in Xinjiang long before the moment in 2016 when it began secretly interning hundreds of thousands of people in extrajudicial “Transformation Through Education” centers.”

“It is tempting to think of Xinjiang as a vast and arid Guantanamo Bay, one roughly as large as Alaska and as populous as Texas. Like Donald Rumsfeld’s own “world-class operation,” on a much grander (albeit largely domestic) scale, it is a hypertrophied state-within-a-state where minority residents are guilty before judgment and where the rule of law is reengineered in the name of fighting a pervasive, unbounded, and infinitely flexible terrorist threat. According to Darren Byler, another scholar of the region, China’s counterterrorism campaign in Xinjiang “rests on the assumption that most Uyghurs and significant numbers of Kazakhs are terrorists, separatists, and extremists-in-waiting.” But while Guantanamo Bay’s purpose is containment, Xin-jiang’s state of exception is intended to cure a diseased population. This philosophy is made explicit in government statements dating to the 2014 start of China’s “People’s War on Terror.” In the words of one 2015 report from Hotan City, anyone whose thinking has been “deeply affected” by “religious extremism” must be transformed through “military-style management.”

Roberts argues that this state of exception is facilitating cultural genocide. In addition to the system of extrajudicial detention that has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people—possibly more than a million—in camps, more than 300,000 residents have also received formal prison sentences in the last three years, an order of magnitude more than in previous periods. An entire generation of Uyghur academics, artists, and businesspeople has disappeared, probably into prisons; they include internationally respected anthropologists, poets, comedians, novelists, and economists. There have been many credible reports of torture, sexual violence, and forced sterilization among Xinjiang’s minority population. Children are routinely taken from detained parents and placed in state orphanages where minority language and culture are demonized. And more than a million Communist Party cadres have been sent to live temporarily with Uyghur and Kazakh families, where they perform searches of homes, lecture their hosts on the dangers of Islam, and even sleep in the same beds as their “brothers” and “sisters.” Meanwhile, birth rates have plummeted in minority areas. The end result, scholars and activists fear, will be the eradication of Uyghurs as a distinct people.”

“It’s true that small numbers of Uyghurs have sometimes pushed for political independence in their homeland, even founding two short-lived Republics of East Turkestan in the years before China’s Communist revolution. But in case after case, Roberts shows, the Chinese government has used deceptive framing, official secrecy, and the framework of the war on terror to artificially inflate the danger of Uyghur separatism in order to justify increasingly ruthless policies in Xinjiang. “Often,” he writes, “what was framed as a ‘terrorist attack’ by authorities at this time was really armed self-defense against police and security forces, which were seeking to aggressively apprehend Uyghurs they viewed as ‘disloyal’ to the state, often merely determined by their religiosity.””

“As the war on terror escalated outside of China, state-conjured threats of separatism led to harsher policies in Xin-jiang. Roberts argues that this environment created a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where state tactics made spontaneous acts of rage and violence—eventually including genuine acts of terrorism, such as a coordinated knife attack in Kunming in 2014—all but inevitable, retroactively justifying the policies that caused the violence in the first place.”

Half a million Muslims forced to pick cotton as scale of Chinese slave labour exposed

“China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities to pick cotton by hand in the western region of Xinjiang, a key source of the world’s cotton, according to a report by a Washington-based think tank.

Rights activists have estimated that Chinese authorities have detained more than one million Uighurs and other, mostly Muslim, minorities in detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing denies that Uighurs’ rights are abused and says re-education centres provide vocational training to help people gain employment, and are necessary to curb extremism.

Now, information from Chinese government documents and state media reports provides evidence that at least half a million people have been forced to pick cotton through a coercive state-mandated labour transfer and poverty alleviation scheme, the Center for Global Policy says.”