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Non-existent 'forced Labour' -- Debunking ASPI's report on Xinjiang labor Export

publish time:2020-08-31 16:55| view by:317 | publisher:root

Kunfei YANG, Researcher of Baichuan Think Tank, Associate Professor of Collaborative Innovation Center for Security and Development of Western Frontier China.

Since returning to China at the end of last year, I have been busy with a paper on poverty alleviation in border areas. I want to complete the task as soon as possible and have a good rest for a while to enjoy family happiness. In early May of this year, while searching for foreign literature, I accidentally came across a research report by Australian Strategic Policy Institute(ASPI), "Uyghurs for sale:‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang "outside the border", it involves the labor transfer and poverty alleviation by local governments in Xinjiang, China. It may be that as a Chinese, I am inherently insensitive to English and not aware of the malice of "for sale" and "forced labour" in the title. Then I was troubled by some trivia and seldom read this report carefully. It was not until mid-July that the school was officially closed for summer vacation, seeing that the epidemic warning in Tibet, Qinghai and other places was lifted, so I decided to go to investigate there and restart the paper writing. During the investigation, I saw this report again on my mobile phone. After reading a few pages carefully, I found that the report was full of malicious intent. In addition, I have studied and researched in Xinjiang for a long time. With my long-term Xinjiang research experience, I am almost certain that many of the “facts” mentioned in the report are very doubtful!

Later, I found that some American media and politicians were hyping up the report and used it as evidence to attack and discredit the Chinese government’s policies and human rights in Xinjiang, and attempted to legislate against companies that hire ethnic minorities from Xinjiang. In my opinion, as a superpower, If the U.S. adopts this politically offensive report which is full of factual errors, it will not only make the already severe Sino-US relations worse, but also seriously affect the employment rights of Xinjiang ethnic minorities who have been employed and have to be forced to leave because of this report. It will definitely affect the improvement of their lives of thousands of families, and it will also be a basin of cold water to extinguish their yearning for a better life and the hope of pursuing a happy life. Thinking of this, this is the real trampling and violation of human rights, forcing people who are willing to use their hands to create their own happy lives to give up their labor rights. I really don't want to see a report full of lies have such a bad impact on China and the lives of the people in Xinjiang. From the basic human conscience, I decided to use the power of fact and logic to expose the shameless rumors of ASPI, so this article was formed.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a research report entitled "Uyghurs for sale:‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang" (hereinafter referred to as "ASPI report") on March 1, 2020. ASPI report claims that between 2017 and 2019, at least 80,000 Uyghurs were forced to work in factories of other parts of the country, their personal freedom was restricted, and their labor rights and religious beliefs were not guaranteed. It also claims that the labor transfer is Chinese government's "forced labour" (forced labour) against the Uyghurs, and is an extension of the so called "Re-education Camp" Policy. Judging from the wording of the title, the "ASPI Report" slandered Xinjiang Uyghurs’ off-site employment and the transfer of surplus rural labor force from Xinjiang to other parts of the country for employment as “forced labor”, and slandered the “Vocational Skills Education and Training Center” that improves the employability of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as the so called "Re-education Camp". Judging from its content, the authors of this report try their best to demonstrate an untenable conclusion by using inferior methods such as diverting words, taking out of context, and distorting facts. If the factual evidence is truthful from facts but the conclusion is wrong, we can think that their logical ability is limited instead of having ulterior motives. However, they distort the facts to demonstrate, I have to doubt their ulterior motives. Since it has ulterior motives, judging from the evidence that the report was used as an attack on Chinese government, the purpose of ASPI and the authors can only be interpreted as malicious smearing of China, and can only be a comprehensive stigmatization of Chinese government's border governance policy.

So I deliberately checked the information of ASPI and discovered that this institute has been attacking and discrediting China for such a long time. It is not surprising that reports made by such an institution are full of obvious ideological bias to discredit China. Originally I intended to ignore this report. But thinking of the bad impact of this report on thousands of poor families, I decided to do something for them. Especially, ASPI report attempts to use social science research methods to package lies into scientific research conclusions, and uses a large number of so called "real cases" and "data analysis" to obtain the rationality and scientificity of its conclusions. ASPI report may deceive ordinary people but cannot deceive me and others who have received social science training and higher education. This report is an insult to my IQ. For these reasons, I have to fight against them till the end. I will completely tear up their gorgeous packaging to see how bad they are. I will completely expose the nature of their lies which are used to discredit China.

The main body of the report is less than 20000 words, but there are 287 notes and two appendices. At first glance, people may think that it is an empirical research report with “extensive references” and “rigorous argumentation”. However, after careful “reading”, it will be found that these so-called “evidences” are full of loopholes and can not stand scrutiny. No matter the source of data, the citation of evidence, or the statement of opinion, it is far from the empirical research in the general sense. This paper will deconstruct the so-called “objectivity” and “authenticity” of the ASPI Report from three dimensions: research methods, research conclusions and relevant policy background.

The ASPI Report boasted the nature of its own research, presents the appearance of empirical research, and emphasized that the research findings were based on data and information collected through various ways. According to the ASPI Report, it mainly used case study methods, and the sources mainly included open-source Chinese-language documents, satellite imagery analysis, academic research and on-the-ground media reporting (p. 5).

Through careful reading, we can find that the ASPI Report did cite a large number of Chinese-language documents and on-site media reports, but these citations were distorted by the subjective intention of the authors and lack of accuracy. The so-called “satellite imagery analysis” was just a analysis of the satellite images of Jiashi County Secondary Vocational School and Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd in Shule. Seeing that the school and the factory have security posts and perimeter fencing, the ASPI Report jumped to the conclusion that there is "forced labour" against Uyghurs. As for the so-called “academic research”, except for the articles by James Leibold himself, the assisting author of the ASPI Report, there was no decent academic articles found in the references. The so-called “on-the-ground media reports” were just a few screenshots found on the Internet.


Specifically, ASPI report has the following three characteristics in the use of evidence materials:

 I: Disguised replacement of concept, malicious interpretation and lack of accuracy

Objective news reports can be used as evidence of analysis and argumentation, but the premise is not to get out of context and deliberately misinterpret. The ASPI Report has more than 100 notes citing Chinese media reports, many of which are Chinese official documents and media reports. However, none of them was recorded in the original words. Most of them were taken out of context and deliberately misinterpreted. In particular, the differences of language habits in the process of Chinese-English translation were deliberately tampered with. For example, the second paragraph on page 3 of the ASPI Report claimed that Uighur workers in Xinjiang are subject to “constant surveillance”, by citing the official reports (Note 5). In fact, the cited article aimed to introduce the measures and effects of organized transfer of rural labour force to employment outside Xinjiang by the local government of Nilka, Xinjiang, which mentioned that ‘the tracking service should be provided for the people who realize the transfer of employment, and help them solve the problems encountered during the working period”.[1] However, in the ASPI Report, “tracking service” became “monitoring”. This practice shows that the authors intentionally used the differences between Chinese and English expressions, unscrambled maliciously and had bad intentions. The ASPI Report mentioned many times that Uyghurs were “forbidden from participating in religious observances”, but it did not provide any factual basis. Take the penultimate paragraph on page 6 for an example, which mentioned that Uyghur workers were “prevented from practising their religion”, and the source of the note is still the aforementioned article on transfer of rural labour force to employment by the Nilka government in Xinjiang (Note 32). Actually, the original intention of the cited article was to guide Uyghur migrant workers away from illegal religious activities and extremist thoughts. The same article was also used on page 3 to prove that Uyghur workers were “forbidden from participating in religious observances” (Note 5).

Take the penultimate paragraph on page 6 for an example, in which it mentioned that “every 50 Uyghur workers are assigned one government minder and are monitored by dedicated security personnel”. This assertion was based on Note 33. Looking at Note 33, it can be found that this article is a news report on strengthening labour cooperation and promoting long-term and stable employment in Xinjiang by the Department of Human Resources and Social Security of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The news report said, “according to the principle of 50:1, the accompanying management cadres with bilingual knowledge and management ability shall be provided.” [2] However, the authors of the ASPI Report selectively excluded the words “bilingual knowledge and management ability”, and changed “accompanying management cadres” into “dedicated security personnel”, and then said that these security personnel “monitored” Uyghur workers. In fact, considering that most Uyghurs have a relatively low level of Chinese and have daily communication barriers, the relevant work units are equipped with management cadres in order to better serve Uyghur workers in their daily life and daily communication.

The last paragraph on page 13 mentions that “By late 2018, cheap labour emerging from the ‘re-education camps’ had become an important driver of Xijiang’s economy, according to an official statement by the Xinjiang Development and Reform Commission” (Note 85). This assertion was based on an article on the official website of the Xinjiang Development and Reform Commission dated December 5, 2018 with the tile of “the economic structure of the autonomous region is stable and active, and the development is good”. However, the original words of the quoted article are “taking the vocational skills education and training centers as the carriers, attracting a large number of coastal domestic enterprises to set up factories in Xinjiang, which is beneficial to expand employment and promote income increase”.[3]

All of the above examples show that although the ASPI Report has marked the sources of the data cited, it does not have any authenticity and is arbitrarily interpreted according to their own subjective needs.

Through above analysis, it can be found that the ASPI Report indicates the source of the document or the source of the data, but does not quote the original text or original intention instead of using the method of disguised replacement of concept.


II: Subjective conjecture and lack of objectivity

Empirical research emphasizes the use of external, objective, non-human conscious data for research. However, the authors of the ASPI Report did not follow this basic principle. In the report, the authors mostly took the subjective conjecture of relevant articles as evidence to support their own views. Both the second paragraph on page 3 and the third paragraph on page 4 of the ASPI Report estimated that more than 8000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019. In order to strengthen the authenticity of this estimate, the authors added a note (Note 18) to explain that “this estimate is based on data collected from Chinese state media and official government notices”. Curiously, however, these authors, who always boasted about referencing specifications did not specify how and where the data were collected. This method will only cast doubt on the reliability of this estimate.

The fourth paragraph on page 10 states that “they live in buildings next to the factory that are separate quarters from those of the Han workers”. Obviously, this statement was intended to show that Uyghur workers were isolated, indicating a form of forced labour. However, the ASPI Report did not indicate the source of the information. Although a note was added to this statement (Note 58), its purpose was not to provide the basis of the statement, but to explain the two indicators of the International Labour Organization on forced labour.

The second paragraph on page 14 states that “Depending on the county, labourers sent outside Xinjiang count for anywhere between 10% to 50% of all Xinjiang transfers”. The ASPI Report provided two articles on the Chinese website as evidence (Note 89 and Note 90). Though these two articles did mentioned the relevant figures of the transfer employment,[4] the question is, are the figures mentioned in these two articles representative? How reasonable is the proportion of transferred labour force calculated according to this figure? The authors had no explanation. Obviously, this kind of calculation is also a kind of conjecture of the authors.

In order to confirm the accusation of “buying” and “selling” Uyghur labour force, the ASPI Report not only sought political evidence, but also economic evidence. The penultimate paragraph on page 15 quoted a document from the Xinjiang regional government in 2018 (Note 98), claiming that “selling” Uighur workers was a very profitable business for local governments and intermediary companies. Indeed, the government of the autonomous region had issued policies to give cash rewards to grassroots organizations such as towns and villages, public employment service agencies and labour dispatch agencies that have successfully realized the organized transfer employment of rural surplus labour. However, this is only a policy tool to promote the effective implementation of the policy, rather than a business of selling Uyghur labour force. Moreover, the ASPI Report did not refer to an important provision in the document, that is, “the incentive grants are mainly used for the relevant expenses incurred in the process of labour transfer”. At the same time, this policy document was revised and promulgated in 2016, not in 2018 as stated in the ASPI Report. Moreover, the earliest version of the document was issued in 2009.[5]

What needs to be pointed out is that in China, the government serves all people and is responsible for ordinary people. If the Chinese government wants to lift the entire population out of poverty, the key to poverty alleviation in poor border areas is to promote employment. In addition, in China, it is not an easy task to make employment opportunities for the huge surplus rural labor force. The national policy encourages to give rewards to the implementation agencies of the rural surplus labor transfer employment project. In other words, this is not a unique policy of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but a national policy; this is not a special policy for Uyghur labour force transfer employment, but a policy for all surplus rural labour force transfer employment in China nationwide. It can be seen that the economic motivation of the so-called “selling” Uyghur labour force is the conjecture of the authors of the ASPI Report.


 III: A sheer fabrication out of nothing and no credibility

According to the second paragraph on page 3 of the ASPI Report, Uyghur workers “typically live in segregated dormitories”. The evidence supporting this statement was Note 3. The note referred to two articles, namely, “Partner assistance to Xinjiang, reaching the heart of the masses”[6] and “The miniature of Hotan migrant workers working in Jiangxi Nanchang high-tech enterprise”.[7] However, these two articles did not actually mention the accommodation of Uyghur workers. Not only that, the second article was a news report of Xinjiang migrant workers going out on the rest day. Therefore, instead of proving that Xinjiang workers were living in isolation, this news report showed that the so-called Uyghur workers were “monitored” and “forced to work” in the ASPI Report was untrue. The fourth paragraph on page 4 states that “it is extremely difficult for Uyghurs to refuse or escape from these work assignments, which are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination both inside and outside of Xinjiang.” The evidence used by the ASPI Report to support this assertion is actually an article on the official website of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the people's Republic of China on promoting employment in Xinjiang (Note 19). Anyone with a little bit of common sense knows that the article on the official website is unlikely to link employment assignments with detention. In fact, there was no mention of political indoctrination or detention in the cited article.[8] This statement in the ASPI report was an absurd supposition.

The fifth paragraph on page 4 directly quoted a paragraph which was said to be from a work report of a local government in Xinjiang in 2019, which says, “For every batch (of workers) that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and a batch will be transferred. Those employed need to receive thorough ideological education and remain in their jobs.” According to the source provided by the ASPI Report (Note 23), it could be found that the above-cited paragraph was based on the work report of the people's Government of Moyu County, Xinjiang in 2019. After checking the original text, it is found that the English translation is quite different from the original text in Chinese.This is what the original text says: “Focusing on the cultivation of national common language and employment skills, through in-depth implementation of various directional training, improve the employability of workers, so as to realize the diversified allocation of surplus labour force. We will strengthen the management of employment services, do a good job in Ideological education for the employed, make sure that they can live stably, be good at work, and become rich, and strive to realize the transfer of urban and rural surplus labour force of 168,400 persons (including 5,400 people working outside Xinjiang, 77,000 people working across the border within Xinjiang, and 86,000 people working in the local area), and the labour services income reaches 1.48 billion yuan.”[9] It is obvious that the local government's work plan to promote vocational training and employment of surplus labour force has been distorted in the ASPI Report as a “re-education” for the Uyghur people. This makes people wonder, should not the local government develop vocational training and promote employment? Do young Uyghurs not need vocational training and employment?

The third paragraph from the bottom on page 6 stated that Uyghur workers “have little freedom of movement and live in carefully guarded dormitories, isolated from their families and children back in Xinjiang.” The basis for the ASPI Report to reach this conclusion (Note 30) was the recruitment information published by two unidentified private “Baidu Post Bar” accounts. The penultimate paragraph on page 6 also stated that “the Chinese authorities and factory bosses manage Uyghur workers by ‘tracking’ them both physically and electronically”. There was no relevant information in the quoted media report (Note 37) to support this assertion.[10] Obviously, this was the authors' fabrication and imagination. The same situation also appeared on paragraph 2 on page 7. “In some cases, local government in Xinjiang send Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres to simultaneously surveil workers' families back home in Xinjiang,” the paragraph said. In fact, the source provided by the authors (Note 43) had no relevant information at all.[11] Similar practices were too numerous in the ASPI Report.

A rigorous research report should be based on a large number of real first-hand information, otherwise it is impossible to have credibility. The ASPI Report, however, did not have any real first-hand information.There were only deliberate misrepresentations, subjective assumptions, and even tarnishes of news reports, government work reports and basic facts. The authenticity and credibility of the so-called research report produced by this means can be imaged.


Conclusion

As we all know, academic research reports should be scientific and rigorous, with standardized citations, accurate words, logical conclusions and arguments, and arguments should be true, not forged or fabricated. However, the arguments cited in ASPI report are all processed and fabricated, and some of them are only taken out of context, deliberately distorted, subjective conjectures, or even maliciously smeared of news reports, government work reports and basic facts. In short, the arguments used in ASPI report are fake. If the arguments are fake, the conclusion must be fake! Anyway, ASPI Report is a research report full of lies, purely an "anti-China tool" concocted to maliciously smear the facts and distort the facts.



[1] Note 5 of the ASPI Report quoted the article “Xinjiang Nileke: taking multiple measures to explore a new mode of promoting the organized transfer of rural labour outside Xinjiang"(新疆尼勒克:多措并举探索提升农村劳动力疆外有组织转移就业新模式》), http://chinajob.mohrss.gov.cn/c/2019-06-24/115220.shtml. According to the original note, the article came from Xinjiang public employment service center. In fact, it was from China Employment Network hosted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

[2] The original Note 33 quoted the article “Department of Human Resources and Social Security of Xinjiang: Autonomous Region Strengthening regional labour cooperation and promoting long-term stable employment”  (《新疆自治区人力资源和社会保障厅:强化区内劳务协作 促进长期稳定就业》), http://www.mohrss.gov.cn/jycjs/JYCJSgongzuodongtai/201903/t20190321_ 312709.html.

[3] The original Note 85 cited the article “the economic structure of the autonomous region is stable and has a good development”(《自治区经济结构稳中有活 发展良好》), http://www.xjdrc.gov.cn/info/9923/23516.htm.

[4]The original Note 89 quoted the article “two years since the implementation of the project of rural surplus labour transfer and employment in Hetian, Kashgar, Xinjiang"(《新疆喀什和田农村富余劳动力转移就业工程实施两年来》)http://sa.sogou.com/sgsearch/sgs_tc_news.php?tencentdocid=20181115A1WSGD00&req=3iHw35AbIXbAFBRpziBVhTgxRDi_3lJjcBvnGzgoC2M=&user_type=1, and Note 90 cited the article “transfer of 2410 poor labour force in southern Xinjiang” (《南疆2410名贫困劳动力转移就业》), http://www.cwdpa.org.cn/lzjs/11500.html.

[5]Interim Measures of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the management of fund replacement by awards for the transfer and employment of surplus rural labour force (Xincai she [2016] No. 37)(《新疆维吾尔自治区农村富余劳动力转移就业以奖代补资金管理暂行办法》)(新材社[2016]37号) , http://www.xjwqx.gov.cn/P/C/210.htm

[6]The original Note 3 quoted article A “Partner assistance to Xinjiang, reaching the heart of the masses” (《对口援疆,做到群众心坎上》), http://ah.anhuinews.com/system/2018/07/26/007924378.shtml

[7]The original Note 3 cited article B “The miniature of Hotan migrant workers working in Jiangxi Nanchang high-tech enterprises (《和田外出务工人员在江西南昌高新企业就业缩影》),  https://www.hts.gov.cn/jinrihetian/show.php?itemid=363.

[8]The original Note 19 cited article "Department of human resources and social security of Xinjiang Autonomous Region: strengthening regionallabour cooperation and promoting long-term stable employment" (《新疆自治区人力资源和社会保障厅:强化区内劳务协作促进长期稳定就业》), http://www.mohrss.gov.cn/jycjs/JYCJSgongzuodongtai/201903/t20190321_ 312709.html.


[9] The original Note 23 cited the work report of Moyu County People's Government in 2019(《2019年墨玉县人民政府工作报告》), http://www.ahmhxc.com/gongzuobaogao/16526.html.

[10] The original Note 37 cited the article "innovation mechanism promotes labour transfer and employment in Hotan region" (《和田地区创新机制助推劳动力转移就业》), http://www.chinaxinjiang.cn/dizhou/15/201705/t20170523_ 552732.htm.

[11]The original Note 43 cited the article "Xinjiang Nileke: taking multiple measures to explore a new mode of promoting the organized transfer and employment of rurallabour outside Xinjiang" (《新疆尼勒克:多措并举探索提升农村劳动力疆外有组织转移就业新模式》), http://chinajob.mohrss.gov.cn/c/2019-06-24/115220.shtml.


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