A New York Times video investigation reported Monday that Chinese companies are using involuntary Uighur Muslim labor to produce face masks.
The investigation found the Uighur Muslim labor is part of the personal protective equipment supply chain, according to The Times.
The companies use a Chinese government-sponsored program that experts claim usually coerces Uighur Muslims and other minorities into working against their will.
The Times found a medical supply of face masks imported to Georgia were from a factory in the Hubei province in China, where more than 100 Uighur Muslims were sent to work.
Workers at these factories are expected to pledge allegiance to China every week and learn Mandarin.
The Chinese government said the program helps “local residents rise above poverty through employment and lead fulfilling lives,” according to The Times.
The number of workers placed into these forced-labor conditions and the steep penalties for those who refuse to cooperate indicate working is involuntary.
“There are these coercive quotas that cause people to be put into factory work when they don’t want to be,” Amy K. Lehr, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Human Rights Initiative, told The Times. “And that could be considered forced labor under international law.”
Media reports and public records indicated at least 17 Chinese companies use the government program, according to The Times.
In June, China’s National Products Administration reported 51 companies producing medical protection equipment in Xinjiang, where a large majority of Uighur Muslims live, The Times reported.
Before the pandemic, only four companies in Xinjiang made medical protection equipment.
The Chinese Communist Party has reportedly been placing Uighur Muslims into indoctrination camps for religious activities.
The Chinese government has also been accused of committing “demographic genocide” against the Uighur Muslims through forced abortions, birth control, imprisonment and detention camps.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded on June 29 the Chinese government stop its “dehumanizing abuses” against the Uighur Muslims.
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