Report: Online Uyghur Slave Trade Booming in China

Uyghurs Protest
OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty, file

Unspecified sellers in China are increasingly using online venues to advertise Uyghurs for sale in “batches of 50 to 100 workers,” Sky News revealed on Friday.

“On Chinese websites, there are dozens of postings advertising Uighur [sic] labour, in batches of 50 to 100 workers,” Sky News reported on April 16. “Baidu, the company hosting the job postings, did not respond to a request for comment.”

Baidu is a Chinese multinational technology company providing Internet-related services, including China’s top search engine.

The Baidu advertisements suggested Uyghur laborers were under “tight political and social controls,” according to Sky News, which noted that one posting stated the “security of workers will be guaranteed by the government.” Sky did not mention the ads suggesting the workers would be compensated in any way.

Roughly 10 million Turkic-speaking Uyghurs live in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost territory bordering Central Asia. Provincial Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials in Xinjiang have detained 1-3 million Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim minorities in state-run concentration camps since at least 2017, according to estimates by human rights groups and foreign governments. The Chinese government officially denies the camps are meant to exterminate Uyghur identity, though it admits to trapping Uyghurs in the camps.

The CCP says it operates “vocational training” and Marxist “political education” centers for Uyghurs in Xinjiang designed to steer the Sunni Muslim group away from alleged “extremist” behavior and ideology and into the Chinese labor force. Former detainees and ex-employees of Xinjiang’s Uyghur camps say they suffered or witnessed slave labor conditions at the facilities.

The CCP allegedly transferred roughly 80,000 Uyghur “graduates” of  Xinjiang’s “re-education” camps out of the territory and into slavery at various factories and plants across China between 2017 and 2019, according to a March 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

“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 cited by the ASPI as evidence of the Uyghur labor transfers.

Breitbart News noted other evidence cited by the ASPI in its report, including “[a]dvertisements online using racist imagery of cartoons wearing traditional Uyghur clothing promised ‘qualified, secure, and reliable’ government ‘workers’ for willing factories.”

“Excellent graduates were to be taken on as laborers by various inland governments, in particular, 19 provinces and municipalities,” a source told ASPI.

A U.S.-based researcher named Adrien Zenz published a report in December 2020 in which he estimated half a million Uyghurs have been forced to pick cotton under slave labor conditions in Xinjiang through its state-run “labor transfer” programs. Zenz based his research on Chinese government documents and state media reports. Cotton produced by Xinjiang’s Uyghur slave labor has been used by major brands including Nike, Apple, and BMW, according to the ASPI report.

Like Sky, Zenz’s report noted the use of online applications and other advanced technology to sell Uyghurs into slavery.

Sky News said in its April 16 report that it contacted some of the phone numbers included in the Uyghur labor advertisements.

“One agent told us that workers from Xinjiang needed to be ‘examined politically’ before they could be transferred,” the British news outlet wrote.

“The local government of the receiving province would also do a ‘political examination,'” the labor agent told Sky News, adding, “All workers would be accompanied by ‘supervisors’ … and ‘under half-military management.'”

Another agent contacted by the news outlet “said that without local government approval, workers could not be arranged because ‘the ethnic minority issue is a severe problem.'”

A third labor agent contacted by Sky News said “the salary of the ‘supervisors’ was paid by the Personnel Bureau of the Xinjiang government.”


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