QZ Reported in March 2020

Members of China’s Uyghur ethnic minority are being used as forced labor in factories far from the so-called reeducation camps that have held them for years in Xinjiang, according to an extensive new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think-tank founded by Australia’s government.

Between 2017 and 2019, ASPI estimates the Chinese government relocated at least 80,000 Uyghurs from Xinjiang in western China to factories across the country where they work “under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour.” What’s more, it says the manufacturers using these transported Uyghurs supply at least 83 international companies making everything from footwear to electronics.

The list of well-recognized names includes Apple, Nike, Amazon, Samsung, Zara, H&M, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, Uniqlo, and more. The report did not document factories using Uyghur labor supplying every one of these companies directly. In many cases, it only established that the factory’s owner—sometimes a large parent company that might own several factories—was listed as a supplier by the company or claimed to be a supplier itself.

Even so, it suggests a failure among companies of all sorts to monitor the partners making their products, even if they often claim to have robust programs in place to prevent these types of abuses. Factory audits became widespread in the 1990s, after the child-labor scandals involving Nike and the clothing line of television host Kathie Lee Gifford. Today they’re often carried out by large, for-profit firms that constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. 

The ASPI, Australian Strategic Policy Institute reports:

"This report examines three case studies in which Uyghur workers appear to be employed under forced labour conditions by factories in China that supply major global brands. In the first case study, a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for US company Nike is equipped with watchtowers, barbed-wire fences and police guard boxes. The Uyghur workers, unlike their Han counterparts, are reportedly unable to go home for holidays (see page 8). In the second case study of another eastern province factory claiming to supply sportswear multinationals Adidas and Fila, evidence suggests that Uyghur workers were transferred directly from one of Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’ (see page 18). In the third case study, we identify several Chinese factories making components for Apple or their suppliers using Uyghur labour. Political indoctrination is a key part of their job assignments (see page 21). " ...
Read the full ASPI report