A bombshell report landed on Friday that alleges the Chinese Communist Party is using the forced labor of 2.6 million Uighurs in eastern China. Specifically, the report detailed the “labor transfer” programs — as the Chinese government calls them — forcibly relocating millions of Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs to work farms and factories.
The Sheffield Hallam University study “In Broad Daylight” focused on the solar panel industry and noted that 95 percent of all solar panels rely on a specific material: polysilicon. The Uighur-dominated Xinjiang region of China produces 45 percent of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon, and every factory in the region reported participation in the labor transfer programs.
The report also identified 15 companies within China that directly use or accept labor transfers, as well as “90 Chinese and international companies whose supply chains are affected.”
Slavery Label Well Deserved
In 2018, then-State Department assistant Secretary Scott Busby told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “Chinese authorities have detained at least 800,000, and possibly more than 2 million, Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities in internment camps for indefinite periods of time.”
He went on to describe individuals being detained, but not being charged with crimes, with no information about their whereabouts or well-being communicated to their families. The detainees also had no ability to contest their detention.
China had long denied such camps existed until overwhelming evidence and international outcry forced its admission. The CCP then explained that these camps were actually “vocational education centers” that help young and unemployed people learn job skills.
But Busby pointed out that “renowned Uighur intellectuals and retired professionals are also detained in these camps.” Citing multiple reports and sources, he painted a hellish picture of the horrifying existence of those living in these so-called education centers.
“They report mandatory classes where detainees are required to recite Communist slogans and sing songs praising the Chinese Communist Party. Failure to quickly learn these lessons leads to beatings and food deprivation,” he said.
“There are reports of the use of stress positions, cold cells, and sleep deprivation in the camps. We have also seen reports of other forms of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, including sexual abuse.”
He went on to describe how these largely Islamic minorities are being forced to renounce their religion and embrace the CCP.
“For example, praying and using common Muslim greetings are forbidden in the camps. There are reports that authorities constantly surveil detainees to ensure that they do not pray, even in their own beds in the middle of the night. Detainees are reportedly forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.”
Apparently, the CCP is now adding forced labor to the laundry list of abuses these people must endure.
Uighurs Locked Up While Ethnic-Chinese Can Come and Go
The SHU study interviewed many eyewitnesses and former workers who described conditions in the labor transfer factories producing polysilicon. “Many of the factories employing supposedly free [Uighur] citizens are surrounded by razor-wire fences, iron gates, security cameras and are monitored by police or additional security, while Han [ethnically Chinese] workers’ mobility is unrestricted in the workplace and in the ability to return home.”
The report also pointed out, “In many cases, [Uighur] and Kazakh workers are not allowed to leave the factories voluntarily.”
“First-person reports indicate that people working in the camps are either unpaid, paid far less than the minimum wage, or have their salaries reduced with the explanation that they owe a debt to their employers for food or transport to work.”
In addition to a type of indentured servitude, it described that “local police hold workers’ identification cards, controlling their movement. The restriction of the rights to free movement and to walk away from employment are indicators of forcible transfer and human trafficking. Some who have escaped this forced labor regime have explicitly described it as ‘slavery.’”
Europe Finally Joins U.S. in Sanctions
For the first time since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the European Union, the U.K. and Canada joined the U.S. in issuing sanctions against China for human rights abuses.
The March 22 sanctions included travel bans and asset freezes, and “target senior officials in Xinjiang who have been accused of serious human rights violations against Uighur Muslims,” BBC reported. These follow the technology export ban that former President Donald Trump enacted in his final year in office, which President Joe Biden has kept in place.
Five days later, China retaliated by issuing its own sanctions against two chairpersons of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a member of the Canadian parliament and the entire Canadian International Human Rights Committee.
Remarkably, rather than accusing these individuals of any wrongdoing, China’s statement rather nakedly admitted they were chosen in response to the U.S.-Canadian sanctions.
The pressure America and its allies are putting on China seems to be working, as last week, Deutsche Welle reported that the “The EU’s long-time-coming investment deal with China is facing major hurdles. The EU’s economy commissioner says diplomatic tensions have made conditions for the deal ‘unfavorable.’”
China’s Labor Problem
As The Western Journal reported, China is facing an existential crisis as its generations-long one-child policy and strict immigration bans are expected to result in it losing half of its population by the end of the century. And the tight control the CCP places on its economy and markets forces its aging populace to pour their life savings into investment homes with the hopes of selling to a future generation drastically smaller than the current one.
At the same time, China’s rising middle class — which now earns a little less than half of their American counterparts — is threatening to price China right out of the manufacturing market.
The Geopolitics of Solar Power
The first practical solar cells were invented in the 1950s at Bell Labs, and the U.S. led the world in developing and producing solar power technology for many years. But like so much of domestic manufacturing, photovoltaic cell manufacturing headed overseas, particularly to China.
“This is the sector that is most clearly dominated at the moment by Chinese players,” Ethan Zindler, head of Americas at BloombergNEF, said.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2020 there were approximately 231,000 U.S. workers employed in the solar energy industry, but a mere 14 percent were involved in manufacturing. And much of this work was simply assembling photovoltaic cells made overseas into solar panels.
This makes the Uighur slave-labor picture all the more clear. China saw the direction the world was heading on renewable power generation and placed itself as the major manufacturer of the photovoltaic cells used in solar panels. And, following the 30 percent tariff that the Trump administration slapped on Chinese-made cells in 2018, the pressure to drive down costs became even more urgent.
It remains to be seen what actions, if any, the Biden administration will take. China has now been roundly exposed as essentially enslaving a race of people to hold on to its status as the factory for the world.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.