Uyghurs are being sent to work all over China against their will, where they are strictly controlled and live in conditions reminiscent of internment camps.
by Li Mingxuan
Amid China’s economic downturn resulting from the spread of the novel coronavirus, the CCP is dispatching ethnic Muslims from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to other parts of the country to work in factories. According to a Radio Free Asia report, the Xinjiang government is forcing Uyghurs to relocate to the provinces of Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang, in what may be part of a bid to bolster production, regardless of the risks posed by the virus.
The BBC quotes the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which calls this move “the next phase in China’s re-education of Uyghurs,” and estimates that between 2017 and 2019, under a central government policy known as Xinjiang Aid, “more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of the far western Xinjiang autonomous region to work in factories across China.” Some have been sent directly from transformation through education camps.
A young Uyghur man who is working in a factory in the eastern province of Shandong told Bitter Winter that hundreds of Uyghurs labor away alongside him to make products for export to Europe, Japan, and the US. The management of the factory are ethnic Han, and they don’t work on production lines because of harmful condition to one’s health; only Uyghurs do.
“I don’t want to be here; It’s hard work, low salary, and strict control,” the man told Bitter Winter. He added that he used to own a shop in his hometown and earned good money, but the government has sent him to this factory against his will.
Numerous surveillance cameras have been installed in the factory. The local police take away the Uyghurs’ ID cards the moment they arrive, they cannot leave without permission; if they do, they might be sent to jail.
“We have to submit a written request if we want to go out,” the man continued. When they are allowed time off, a team leader, commissioned by the police in Xinjiang, puts on them an electronic monitoring bracelet, connected to an app on their phones. If the bracelet stops working while they are away from the factory or they don’t come back within a set time, the workers are punished.
“Those who argue and disobey will be ruthlessly beaten until they cannot stand up,” a manager at the factory said. “After some time, people become submissive, and no one dares to be late.”
He added that a designated employee inspects all mail addressed to Uyghur workers since the government wants to make sure that they don’t discuss anything it deems “dangerous or rebellious.” The Uyghur workers are forced to learn Chinese and are indoctrinated with CCP propaganda by police officers from Xinjiang in their spare time.
The manager also revealed that Uyghurs are allowed to go home to see their families only after working in the factory for a year. They cannot go home without permission, even if a close family member passes away. Those who are lucky to get approval for a visit and don’t come back in time are forcibly escorted back. And those who resist are sent to internment camps.
“Since 2016, the government has been recruiting workers from Xinjiang in the name of ‘poverty alleviation,’ which is a disguise to control them,” the manager continued. “Those who have been recruited must leave their home, and any disobedience will land them in jail.”
A local government official in Xinjiang confirmed these statements. He said that the authorities require young Uyghurs in Xinjiang to work in various provinces, not matter if they want to or not. Each village is given a workforce quota. For example, every Uyghur household in Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture must send one member to work outside the region.
Religious practices are absolutely forbidden in such factories. In one of them in the northeastern province of Liaoning, a Hui man was investigated by the police for inviting his fellow Uyghur workers to attend a worship service.
“The conditions here are almost the same as in re-education camps,” complained an Uyghur working outside Xinjiang.
Some Xinjiang government officials claimed that only unemployed Uyghurs are given work all over China because “they are the surplus rural labor force, which is unfavorable to social stability.” Therefore, sending them to other provinces for work under the government’s supervision “would help alleviate poverty and slow down the spread of religious extremism and racial violence.”
“Some Uyghur women apply for jobs in construction to avoid being sent to other provinces,” a construction company manager in Hotan prefecture told Bitter Winter. “They don’t mind the low pay, as long as we can provide them with a contract which proves that they have a job in Xinjiang. Sometimes, even though they are employed, the government will still force them to work outside Xinjiang.”