Chinese state media on Thursday touted “booming labor-based industries” driving economic growth in Xinjiang, home to internment camps holding hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities subjected to forced labor and other human rights abuses.
The report issued by Global Times Thursday came after the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported in May that communist authorities are moving detainees from the camps to factories where they work for less than minimum wage.
In the article, Global Times argues that residents of Xinjiang, home to the largest concentration of the country’s Muslim minorities — mainly Uighurs — are “happy” with earning $218 monthly after a few weeks with the promise of a raise if they work harder.
China acknowledged that cheap labor cost is prompting labor-intensive industries from sectors like shoemaking and textiles to move production to Xinjiang.
Tang Min, who focuses on poverty reduction for the Chinese government, indicated that “investment in labor-intensive sectors helps create jobs … thereby lifting people out of poverty,” the Global Times reports, adding:
Today, in the middle of vast deserts in [Xinjiang’s] Hotan, a growing number of industrial parks and plants are a common sight, with supporting facilities such as staff dormitory buildings. Many locals see them as “oases in the desert” that bring people new hope for a better life and happiness.
The United States and the United Nations have accused China of running concentration camps holding at least one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. At the camp, detainees are subjected to various human rights abuses, including torture, extrajudicial incarceration, unlawful killing by the government, and communist indoctrination. The so-called re-education or mind-transformation camps are designed to eradicate prisoners’ religious and ethnic identities and replace them with loyalty to the atheist Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Beijing insists that the facilities are voluntary vocational and training centers designed to combat religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism.
Referring to his job at a Xinjiang-based shoe factory, a 23-year-old man identified only as Tohtimamat told Global Times, “If I hadn’t come to work here, I would have stayed at home or been a farmer like my parents, and this job has helped us to get out of poverty.”
Tohtimamat reportedly said that “he feels happy” with his salary of more than 1,500 yuan or about $218 monthly.
China claims labor-intensive industries in Xinjiang’s Hotan region alone took “200,800 people” out of poverty last year.
The Global Times notes:
After a few months of skill training, Tohtimamat has now become a professional worker in the shoe production line … after several months of training, workers can earn more than 1,500 yuan per month, and they will be paid more if they work harder.
China claimed its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would bring more prosperity to Xinjiang.
The province of Xinjiang, China’s largest, is a significant component BRI, which seeks to connect China to the rest of the world, including the Western Hemisphere, with a network of sea, land, and technological routes.