Top brands allegedly using forced Uighur labour

SYDNEY • China is transferring tens of thousands of Uighur detainees out of internment camps and into factories supplying some of the world's leading brands, an Australian think-tank said yesterday.

Top global brands such as Apple, BMW and Sony have been accused of getting supplies from factories using the forced labour, an explosive allegation that could reverberate across the world.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the Chinese government has transferred 80,000 or more Uighurs out of internment camps in Xinjiang and into factories across the country.

"Uighurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors. Some factories across China are using forced Uighur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain."

The brands, it added, included "Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen".

"Companies using forced Uighur labour in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labour or mandate disclosure of forced labour supply-chain risks.

"The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections."

Apple referred Agence France-Presse to an earlier statement it had issued, which said the firm was "dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve".

China's Foreign Ministry slammed the report as having "no factual basis", and accused the institute of attempting to "smear China's efforts to oppose terrorism and fight extremism in Xinjiang".

An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in internment camps in Xinjiang. After initially denying their existence, Beijing cast the facilities as "vocational education centres" where "students" learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.

Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture.

Officially, the government says it is transferring "surplus" Xinjiang labour to other regions in the name of poverty alleviation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2020, with the headline Top brands allegedly using forced Uighur labour. Subscribe