The Chinese government has resumed a job placement plan for tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslim “graduates” of compulsory “re-education” camps in China’s western region of Xinjiang, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Saturday, quoting sources with knowledge of the project.
The plan was finalized last year, but disrupted by the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. It includes a quota for the numbers of Uyghur Muslims provinces must take.
The “re-education” camps function as concentration camps, part of standardized measures designed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to extinguish the cultural identity of Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic people, and other minorities in Xinjiang, a far western province bordering Central Asia. Xinjiang, or East Turkestan, is China’s largest province and has struggled with Beijing-ordered “assimilation” of local cultures for decades.
Critics of the CCP argue that the “students” and “graduates” of the re-education camps have been unwilling participants in the indoctrination programs, better described as detainees, who have endured torture, medical experimentation, and other human rights abuses. The U.S. government has estimated that between one to three million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities have been detained in the camps; there are roughly 10 million ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Beijing rejects these criticisms. It argues that the camps are meant to provide Muslim Uyghurs the training they need to find better jobs and avoid the influence of Islamic separatists in Xinjiang who promote terrorism, according to China, the SCMP reports. Many camp victims already had successful careers and ample education before Chinese officials imprisoned them, however, weakening this argument.
Now claiming to have its coronavirus outbreak under control, the Chinese government has resumed the job placement deal for provinces to absorb Xinjiang laborers, sources told the SCMP. There is no evidence the laborers have any control over or say in where they work.
“Excellent graduates were to be taken on as laborers by various inland governments, in particular, 19 provinces and municipalities,” said the source, without specifying what constituted an “excellent” graduate.
Some sources earlier told SCMP that the program may be scaled back in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended the world economy, but its latest report indicates that this is not the case.
“The unemployment problem in Xinjiang must be resolved at all costs, despite the outbreak,” the Beijing source insisted.
According to the report, at least 19 provinces and cities have been assigned quotas to hire Muslim minorities, mostly Uyghurs, who have “graduated” from re-education camps.
As early as February, when the CCP claimed that the daily number of new infections had started to decrease outside Hubei province, China began to send Uyghur workers to their new job assignments, the SCMP reported.
By the end of February, Xinjiang alone had created “jobs” for over 60,000 Uyghur “graduates” from the camps.
The southern city of Shenzhen was given a target last year to eventually resettle 50,000 Uyghurs; the city plans to do this in several stages, with 15,000 to 20,000 planned for the first batch, sources told the SCMP. The CCP commonly uses the word “batch” to describe a group of Uyghur workers, seeming to lend authenticity to the sources’ claim.
“For every batch [of workers] that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and a batch will be transferred. Those employed need to receive thorough ideological education and remain in their jobs,” the CCP said in a Chinese government work report from 2019.
On March 1, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a study on forced Uyghur labor citing this work report as an example of Uyghur labor transfers set up by the Xinjiang provincial government. The Xinjiang government pays a price per head to other local governments and private brokers to organize the work transfer of Uyghurs from detention camps to labor assignments.
The ASPI report, “Uyghurs for Sale,” found that more than 80,000 Uyghur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang and into forced labor between 2017 and 2019, in a program labeled “Xinjiang Aid” by the CCP. The report notes that this type of systematic forced labor and transfer of Uyghurs out of Xinjiang has been in existence since the early 2000s.
The city of Shaoguan was also asked to take on another 30,000 to 50,000 Uyghur workers, the SCMP claimed. Shaoguan, in the southern Guangdong province, was the site of a deadly factory riot between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in 2009. This incident was believed to have sparked a relentless campaign by the majority Han Chinese against the Uyghurs that has lasted for years and included the concentration camps as well as the installation of mass surveillance technology in Xinjiang and human rights abuses such as the use of Uyghurs for organ harvesting and forcing Uyghur women to sleep with Han Chinese “relatives” in the same bed while their husbands were trapped in the camps.
In Fujian province, a government source also told the SCMP they had been told to hire “tens of thousands” of workers from Xinjiang.
“I heard the first batch … would arrive soon [in Fujian]. We have already received official directives asking us to handle their settlement with care,” the source said.
He added that the preparation work includes providing halal food to the Muslim workers as well as setting up stronger security measures to “minimize the risks of mass incidents.”
In March, Anhui Daily, Anhui province’s official newspaper, reported that the eastern province had received 1,560 “organized laborers from Xinjiang,” says the SCMP. One company headquartered in Anhui, the Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd (HYP), participates in “Xinjiang Aid” by exporting Uyghur workers from Xinjiang to Anhui province, according to the ASPI report. HYP advertises strategic partnerships with Nike, Fila, Adidas, and Puma on its corporate website.
In February 2018, HYP transferred 63 workers from Xinjiang to its Anhui factory, with plans to eventually transfer 500 in total, the ASPI report said. The transferred workers were described as “graduates” of a detainment camp known officially as the Jiashi County Secondary Vocational School, according to a government report seen by the ASPI.
The ASPI analyzed satellite imagery and official documents suggesting that the Jiashi “vocational school” had operated as a re-education camp since 2017. The Jiashi compound increased in size, adding new dormitories and factory warehouses. In addition, significant security features were added to the structure indicating a secure “military-style management” of the compound, the ASPI reports.
Last month, reports surfaced that Uyghurs had been forced out of Xinjiang as early as March to work in factories in other provinces. The labor push was reportedly a similar effort by China to fill gaps in its economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Uyghurs were shipped out of Xinjiang by the thousands in this instance.