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The Truth Behind “Forced Uyghur Labour” Cooked Up by ASPI - Part1

publish time:2020-09-05 09:49| view by:428 | publisher:root

The Truth Behind “Forced Uyghur Labour” Cooked Up by an Australian Think Tank Should Be Revealed Part1

[Note]Since 2018, under the guidance of President Xi’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, the Xinjiang government has firmly set up a development concept that puts people first, steadfastly worked toward the general goal of long-term social stability and peace, focused on the key part of poverty alleviation and concentrated on targeted poverty alleviation with employment to promote local, trans-regional and inland employment of a surplus labour force in the rural areas of Xinjiang. At present, the local fight against poverty in these areas has achieved significant progress with an impressive improvement in the livelihoods and incomes of a large number of farmers and herdsmen of ethnic groups including Uyghurs. These efforts have substantially safeguarded their rights to subsistence and development.

In recent years, western countries, especially the United States, turned a blind eye to the enormous efforts and great achievements made by the Chinese government to improve the livelihood of Uyghurs and all other Chinese ethnic groups in Xinjiang and safeguard their human rights. Under the guise of “human rights violations”, those countries have slandered and attacked the Xinjiang governing policy developed by the Chinese government and spared no effort to sensationalize and internationalize Xinjiang related issues in an attempt to “using Xinjiang-related issues as a tool to contain China’s development”. On March 1 of this year, the research report Uyghurs For Sale: ‘Re-education’, Forced Labour and Surveillance Beyond Xinjiang issued by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and funded by the United States and Australian governments, smeared the Chinese government in the name of “forced Uyghur labour” regarding the policies related to poverty alleviation through employment in Xinjiang, and called upon the international community to crack down on China, severely misleading international opinion and undermining China’s national interests. Hence, it is imperative for Chinese and foreign peace-loving scholars to profoundly reveal the international slander and attacks from the United States and other western countries and their strategies of “using Xinjiang-related issues as a tool to contain China’s development” based on facts and truth by all accounts so as to resolve the international opinion crisis and safeguard China’s international reputation and image as a responsible major country.


On March 1 of this year, with the support of the United States, ASPI[1]issued a research report entitledUyghurs for Sale:‘Re-education’, Forced Labour and Surveillance Beyond Xinjiang, which disregarded facts and stigmatized the Chinese government’s poverty alleviation and employment policies as “forced Uyghur labour” out of pure imagination and fiction, and called on the international community to sanction China. Soon afterwards, some western media, scholars, and dissenters echoed idea that the “forced Uyghur labour” policy is the extension of a “re-education camp”, which further confused the public. Currently many members of United States Congress collectively proposed theAct on Preventing Forced UyghurLabour, and the American President, Donald Trump, enacted the “2020 Act on Uyghur Human Rights Policy”. American customs departments seized a batch of products imported to the United States from Xinjiang in the name of “forced labour” and U.S. State Department and other departments started to call on American enterprises to inspect whether their supply chains are related to “forced labour” from Xinjiang. In addition, Nike Company started to review its Chinese supply chain while some UN experts on independent human rights started to pay attention to the “forced Uyghur labour” issue.

In the future, “forced Uyghur labour” could become another key topic to be sensationalized by the governments and media of the United States and other countries by talking about “re-education camps”. Except for human rights issues, the employment of enterprises in China may also be targeted by overseas opinions. Meanwhile, due to this type of propagation and agitation by overseas anti-China forces, some western countries, international organizations and multinational companies possibly would gradually join a camp lead by the United States to interfere the internal affairs of China and sanction China, and international opinion could also become more complicated as a result.

It is noteworthy that presently the United States and other western countries have developed some pattern and mode of taking advantage of “Xinjiang related issues” to interfere with the internal affairs of China. First, they cook up topics, confuse the public with overwhelming opinions and defame China on its governing policy in Xinjiang; second, they “verify” those topics with the opinions of scholars and dissenters who presume China is “guilty” and then internationalize relevant issues; last but not least, they enact relevant statutes to justify their interference in China’s internal affairs using the topics of human rights, “re-education camps” and “forced labour”. However, their frequent use of such tricks, patterns and modes is bound to severely sabotage China’s national interests. Hence, it is imperative for Chinese and foreign peace loving scholars to profoundly reveal the international slander and attack from the United States and other western countries and their strategies of “using Xinjiang-related issues as a tool to contain China’s development” based on facts and truth by all accounts so as to resolve the international opinion crisis and safeguard China’s international reputation and image as a responsible major country.


1. Great Achievements in Exported Labour, Improved Livelihoods and Guaranteed Human Rights in Recent Years

Located at the heartland of Europe and Asia, Xinjiang is China’s largest provincial administrative region which lies along the western national border of China. Influenced by natural factors and conditions such as terrain and climate, Xinjiang has little rainfall annually and suffers from a variety of natural disasters such as sandstorms and earthquakes with high frequency having a vast scope of influence. Because economic, social and educational development lags behind, Xinjiang has a multitude of illiterate people who need help with literacy, law and education, especially in South Xinjiang. Some minority groups of people have been misguided by false, prejudiced thoughts and ideologies and are likely to become pawns and victims of hostile, anti-China and separatist forces across the world. In particular, several violent and terroristic attacks have been planned and carried out by the East Turkistan Organization which casts a deep psychological shadow on all Chinese ethnic groups in Xinjiang and has severely damaged the efforts made by China to improve the environment and to develop the economy and society. The above natural factors, human factors and combinations of those factors have resulted in aggregated poverty-stricken counties of certain areas within Xinjiang that area inhabited by numerous poor populations comprised of ethnic minorities, especially in South Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is an agricultural and pastoral province with a relatively high population working for agricultural and pastoral industries. As of the end of 2018, Xinjiang Autonomous Region had a total population of 27,020,200 people, with 15,616,300 rural residents who comprise 57.79% of the total population. Meanwhile, compared with other areas of Xinjiang, South Xinjiang has a noticeably surplus in its labour force with the rural populations in Akesu, Kizilsu Kirghiz, Kashgar and Hotan Prefectures taking up 66.73%, 77.22%, 77.10% and 77.78% of total population in those prefectures, respectively. In 2016, the surplus rural labour force across 14 prefectures and cities of Xinjiang reached 2,550,000 people with a surplus labour force of 1,610,000 people in the four cities and prefectures in South Xinjiang, taking up 63.14%.

In June 2016, the Poverty Alleviation and Development Leading Group Office of the China State Council released the List of Counties as the Priority Work of National Poverty Alleviation and Development Projectwith 592 poverty counties included. Among them, 27 counties lie within Xinjiang, including Artux City, the autonomous counties of Balikun Hasake and Qapqal Xibe, Tajik Autonomous County of Taxkorgan, the counties of Wushi, Kalpin, Aketao, Aheqi, Wuqia, Shufu, Shule, Yengisar, Yarkant, Yecheng, Yopurga, Payzawat, Hetian, Karakax, Pishan, Lop, Qira, Keriya, Minfeng, Nilka, Toli, Qinghe and Jeminay. Most of poor counties in Xinjiang are located in the south, standing for a population of 6,215,800 people in poverty.[2]According to the latest poverty alleviation standard, presently South Xinjiang is still the main priority target for poverty alleviation with a poverty rate of 55% including 2,660,000 people who need to be lifted out of poverty. In addition, 640,000 farmers and herdsmen inhabit the deserts and high-elevation mountainous areas who need to overcome poverty.[3]

Poverty is the main issue related to the livelihood of these people, whereas labour transfer, namely poverty alleviation with employment is a key part of the poverty alleviation strategy of China. For a long time, the Chinese government has actively carried out labour market policies and provided all-round support for the promotion of employment stability to help these low-income people out of poverty. In Xinjiang, to improve the economic condition of ethnic groups, mostly Uyghurs, the central government of China along with local government agencies at all levels focus on exporting of the surplus labour force in poor areas as a key part of the program to eradicate poverty among these ethnic groups. Since 2018, under the guidance of President Xi’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, the Xinjiang government has firmly established policies related to development with the people as the core. China has steadfastly followed the general goal of long-term social stability and peace, focused on the key part of poverty alleviation and concentrated on targeted poverty alleviation with employment to promote local, trans-regional and inland employment of the surplus labour force in rural areas of Xinjiang.

With concerted efforts of the central government of China, the local government in Xinjiang and the provinces and cities of China providing aid to Xinjiang, as of the end of 2018, Xinjiang totally transferred a surplus labour force of 2,796,000 people with 1,736,000 people from South Xinjiang (taking up 62.1%); 22 counties experiencing extreme poverty have been organized to register and transfer 82,000 poor household labourers, wherein 75,000 people signed an employment contract of more than six months and the employment rate stabilized at 92%; new employment in the tourism industry provided jobs for 11,457 people, reaching an annual goal of 114.57%. [4]By the end of 2019, 2,923,200 people had been raised out of poverty in Xinjiang, while 3107 poverty-stricken villages and 25 impoverished counties have had poverty eradicated in their areas.[5]In 2020, the Xinjiang government plans to help transfer 2,700,000 rural surplus labourers who will be given employment by many measures such as local employment and improvement in the occupational skills of individuals.[6]

In recent years, relatively significant achievements have been made by the Xinjiang grassroot government to promote poverty alleviation work by exporting labour services. Presently, local livelihoods have been dramatically improved with increased income for many farmers and herdsmen of ethnic groups including Uyghurs, and their rights to subsistence and development are effectively guaranteed. In addition, a series of policies and measures launched by the Xinjiang government in terms of economic and social development, anti-terrorism and extremism eradication have effectively safeguarded the local social stability and provided for the basic rights and interests of the people, which has won the support and praise of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. At present, all trainees participating in sessions related to the eradication of extremism have completed their training, been placed in stable jobs, and live a happy life with help from the government.


2. Major Thoughts and Ideas from the Research Report by the Australian Think Tank on Xinjiang Related Issues and the Actual Situation on the Ground

In recent years, in order to block and contain the rise of China, western countries, especially the United States, have not only carried out an anti-China Indo-Pacific strategy, but have also slandered and attacked the policies of China government related to governing Xinjiang in the name of “protecting human rights” and “protecting freedom”. They spared no efforts to adversely hype Xinjiang related issues and internationalized them to “using Xinjiang-related issues as a tool to contain China’s development”. In 2019, the United States and other western countries and their media stigmatized the professional skill training centers set up in Xinjiang by the government of China for anti-terrorism and the eradication of extremism as “re-education camps” and sensationalized the concept vociferously. At the end of 2019, all trainees of the Xinjiang professional skills training center had completed the training and then the United States and other western countries and their media were unable to make this a major issue any longer. However, in March of this year, supported and funded by the United States, ASPI released a research report calledUyghurs For Sale: ‘Re-education’, Forced Labour and Surveillance Beyond Xinjiang, creating opportunities for the United States and other western countries to make use of “Xinjiang related issues” to interfere with the internal affairs of China. The report mainly expresses the following thoughts and ideas:

(1) Stigmatizing the Policy on Poverty Alleviation with Employment in Xinjiang as “forced Uyghur labour”

The report distorts the fact of normal labour service output that was done by transferring the low income groups in Xinjiang to inland areas for employment, poverty alleviation and income improvement by the government and stigmatizes these efforts as “forced Uyghur labour”. It holds that from 2017 to 2019 more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred to factories (factories of more than 80 famous brands such as Nike, Adidas, Apple) across the country, claiming these people did not volunteer to leave their hometowns to obtain work and were forced to work in those factories.

But the fact is that Xinjiang government included people in Xinjiang who comprised a surplus rural labour force and who were willing to be transferred in exchange for employment in the scope of the training project; China carried out an inclusive training subsidy policy. In the first half of 2019, a total of 743,100 people were trained for employment across the entire region, of which labourers from poor households were transferred with registration; employment of this group reached 153,900 and 418,100 surplus rural labourers were transferred for employment.[7] In addition, to expand employment of members of minority ethnic groups both locally and through transfers to other areas, the Xinjiang grassroot government created and implemented a series of household handicraft industries such as “satellite factories” “livelihood workshops” to promote employment, assisted rural labour cooperation organizations to provide employment, supported organizations related to the agricultural economy to expand employment, promoted stable employment with industrial park zones, encouraged small and micro businesses to provide work along with self-employment opportunities, organized short term seasonal work activities, all of which created jobs for more surplus rural labourers. Based on the above, where does “forced Uyghur labour” come from? 

(2) Stigmatizing the Alleged Unequal Treatment of Uyghur Workers and Claimed their Human Rights Were Violated

The report gives examples from some factories in Anhui, Henan, Jiangxi and other areas to explain how the Uyghurs working for those factories are trainees completing the training of the so-called ‘re-education camps’. In those factories, the managers of those factories are said to have monitored and managed the minority workforce in a semi-military way. They were required to receive political and ideological education usually, study Mandarin, and were not allowed to participate in religious activities or to return home for holidays. The report alleges the minority workers were paid less than the group of Han workers in a same factory.

The fact is that for a long time the Chinese government has prioritized the development of regions inhabited by minority ethnic groups to guarantee their rights and fully respect their human rights. To respect their religion and lifestyle as well as to provide them with a convenient social environment, the Chinese government has established mosques and Muslim restaurants across the country. In China, the Uyghur people fully enjoy a wide variety of rights including freedom to migrate, voluntary employment, freedom of faith and so on. To guarantee rights and interests of Xinjiang workers who migrate to inland for jobs, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Federation of Labour Union has set up a two-way mechanism to safeguard workers’ rights legally with relevant provincial and municipal labour unions inland. In practice, relevant authorities have actively guided Xinjiang workers to join local labour unions inland as well as distributed worker rights protection manuals to promptly help them solve problems and resolve complaints.

(3)Distorting China’s Policy on Supporting Xinjiang with Industrial Development and Claiming that the Chinese Government Transfers Uyghur Labourers for Profits

The report holds that since 2010, the Chinese government has regularly held a national conference on supporting Xinjiang by encouraging other regions to aid Xinjiang in terms of medicine, technology, industry and so on. Among them, Supporting Xinjiang with Industrial Development refers to the jobs assign to Uyghurs in the name of poverty alleviation, which shares the purpose of a so-called “re-education camp”. All local governments, factories and business agents can profit from transferring Uyghur labourers to their local areas. Local governments can receive a bonus amount and relevant factories can receive some compensation for each group of Uyghurs they accept as new workers in their areas.

But the fact is that Chinese central government requires 19 provincial and municipal governments to accept the task of targeted support for Xinjiang, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Liaoning, and Shenzhen; it also encourages coastal provinces and cities to establish enterprises in Xinjiang to provide Uyghur residents with jobs and opportunities by going inland for professional training. To respond to the call from the central government of China, presently the above 19 cities and provinces have established an all-round mechanism to support Xinjiang including talented personnel, technology, management, capital and so on, to support the development of industries that are advantageous to Xinjiang and to help all of the local ethnic groups to solve various issues related to the basic livelihood of local residents such as by providing employment, education, and housing. In recent years, the local Xinjiang government agencies have not only offered professional training to provide new skills for as many farmers and herdsmen as possible who are members of minority ethnic groups. The government agencies also provided trainees from the education and training center who were misguided ideologically with an opportunity to study Mandarin, law and professional skills, to make it easier for them to find employment. As shown in relevant Xinjiang policy document, presently the government of Xinjiang Autonomous Region has specifically allocated 250,500,000 RMB for poverty alleviation: 5000 RMB per person as a standard for employment settlement including professional training, accommodations and transportation; those workers from Xinjiang are paid to the same standard as local workers based on their positions with enterprises (about 2500 RMB) and enjoy the same standard benefits as that of local workers; those employees from Xinjiang working for public welfare positions are subsided for their positions and social security expenses, and those paid more than 2000 RMB a month and who are transferred to new positions within three months can sign an employment contract with a validity period of three years. Meanwhile, the Xinjiang government grants some policy support for qualified Xinjiang laborers from low income households who participate in employment and self-employment training based on regulations.[8]

(4)Claiming that “Forced Uyghur Labour” Violates Law and Will Exert a Negative Influence

The report argues that the behavior of the Chinese government in forcing Uyghurs to work degrades the global supply chain because the authors suspect that China is violating Chinese and international law. It damages the reputation of the Chinese brand abroad as well as brings reputational and legal risks to Chinese company buyers and consumers.

Actually, Xinjiang workers migrating to inland for jobs sign employment contracts with enterprises based on the operation of laws that are the same for all workers. In addition, enterprises pay their social insurance costs based on the Labour Law of China. Those workers clearly understand their duty details, working condition, working hours, payments, holiday rights and so on. Besides, some employers create convenient conditions for those Uyghur workers to join sports groups and events, hold birthday parties, spend traditional holidays together, and provide affordable housing to two-earner households and other groups. At the same time, some targeted provincial governments supporting Xinjiang actively create job opportunities inland for people who are members of minority ethnic groups. For example, in recent years, the Anhui Provincial Party Committee and provincial government earnestly carried out a Xinjiang strategy developed by the central government and put priority on supporting Xinjiang all the time. Enterprises from Anqing, Chaohu, Tongling, Wuhu and other places subsequently received workers who had transferred from Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang and created a sound situation in which synchronous development and mutual benefits of those enterprises inland and people from low income households from Hotan Prefecture. [9]The above measures undoubtedly create a positive influence by guaranteeing the subsistence and development rights of Uyghurs, because within the period of employment, those Uyghur workers learn some professional skills, receive job opportunities, transform and upgrade themselves from farmers and herdsmen to industrial workers, increase their personal income, improve their standard of living and broaden their horizons.

(5) Suggesting the International Community Sanction China over the so-called “Forced Uyghur Labour” Issue

Regarding the so-called “forced Uyghur labour” issue, the report suggests China should establish an comprehensive complaint mechanism to investigate any forced labour incidents with the purpose of guaranteeing the rights of ethnic groups in China, and allow multinational companies to inspect the factories to determine whether employees are forced to work in Chinese factories without restrictions; the report recommends that foreign governments should pressure the Chinese government and sanction relevant officials and to terminate any behavior related to detaining Uyghurs and forcing them to work, and review transaction agreements and put restrictions on products produced by any so-called “forced labourers”; companies mentioned in the report should inspect the workers in Chinese factories who make products for them. If forced labourers are found there, those companies should work to solve that problem; consumers and civil groups should continuously monitor workers’ behaviors as a basis and key indicator for judging whether there is any forced labour and human rights violations, as well as survey and monitor their companies in China, guaranteeing that no forced labour is involved. Based on the above, the ASPI has been cooperating substantially with the United States and western countries to “contain China’s development when associated with Xinjiang issues”. It has become a political and public opinion tool for the United States to block and restrain the rise of China.



[1]Canberra-based ASPI was established in 2001, funded by the Australian government through the Ministry of National Defense and has been funded by the American government and munition merchants for a long time. In recent years, this organization has accepted increased its capital through funding from Australian national defense contractors, technical companies and the governments and regional authorities of other countries, including NATO, U.S. State Department, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and others, many of which regard China as a rival. This think tank (ASPI) has constantly clung to an anti-China standing and been keen to cook up and sensationalize a wide variety of anti-China topics with strong ideological leanings. Regarding Xinjiang, ASPI disregards the facts and truth and instead expresses prejudiced fallacies and follows American anti-China forces to slanders China on the anti-terrorism efforts and the efforts to eradication extremism in Xinjiang, which has degraded into a “daring vanguard” of international anti-China forces.

[2]Han Linzhi. The Current Poverty Situation in Xinjiang and Suggestions on Poverty Alleviation and Development Policies.Rural Economy and Scientific Technology. Issue 8, 2014. Page 198-199

[3]Li Xuejun. Research on Targeted Poverty Alleviation in Three Cities and Prefectures of South Xinjiang. Xinjiang Forum on Social Science. Issue 6, 2016. Page 35-37.

[4]Source: 2018 Statistic Yearbook of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

[5]Focus Report: Concerted Efforts for Targeted Poverty Alleviation.http://www.cpad.gov.cn/art/2020/6/18/art_624_181775.html. June 18 of 2020.

[6]More Than 2,700,000 Surplus Rural Labourers to Be Transferred for Employment by the Xinjiang Government with Great Efforts in 2020.Xinhua News Agency. January 16, 2020.

[7]Around 1,760,000 Surplus Rural Labourers Were Transferred for Employment in the First Half of 2019 in Xinjiang. Xinhua News Agency. July 19, 2019.

[8]Those fiscal subsidies are implemented specifically as follows: for basic labour training to improve their qualifications, each person is subsidized in the amount 50 RMB per day for training and 15 RMB per day for meals, providing a maximum of no more than 500 RMB per month per person. For pre-employment skill training, each person is given no more than 1800 RMB based on actual type of training, skill level, class time and training costs. For self-employment training, each person can receive no more than 1250 RMB for training subsidies after successful self-employment. Those who are subsidized for professional training will go through primary professional skill verification and be given a professional qualification certificate or specific professional skill certificate; these persons can receive no more than 160 RMB for professional verification subsidy or no more than 40 RMB for specific skill test subsidy.Plans on Promoting Poverty Alleviation / Driven Employment Training for the Extremely Poor Areas of Four Cities and Prefectures in South Xinjiang (from 2018 to 2020)developed by the Human Resources and Social Security Department of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. chinajob.mohrss.gov.cn/. June 11 of 2018.http://www.sohu.com/a/235123367_99933053.


[9]109 Surplus Labourers Sent to Anhui Province for Jobs from Pishan County, Xinjiang. People.com.cn. May 31, 2017.


Author Profile: Xie Guiping, a researcher from the Baichuan Think Tank and professor of the Western Border Security and Development Coordination and Innovation Center, Sichuan University; Zhang Huili, a Ph.D. student from the Western Border Security and Development Coordination and Innovation Center, Sichuan University



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