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Expert: China Touts Its ‘Poverty Alleviation’ Policies, But They’re Actually Cover For Forced Labor
A supporters of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard reading "Save Uighur" as a boy waves the flag of East Turkestan and an Islamic black flag on December 13, 2019 during a demostration in front of China Consulate in Istanbul.
OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

One of the United States’ most respected experts on China’s oppression of Muslim minorities says the communist nation’s touted “poverty alleviation” is nothing more than forced labor.

Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., recently wrote an article for Foreign Policy detailing how China lies to the international community about how it treats Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, particularly Uyghurs:

Since spring 2017, the Chinese government has placed vast numbers of Turkic minorities into internment camps, which it refers to as “reeducation camps,” in the northwestern Xinjiang region. This March, it claimed that these supposed students would gradually be released into work placements. Data such as this supports this claim, but not in the way that the government is trying to sell it. Rather, it is part of a rapidly growing set of evidence for how Beijing’s long-term strategy to subdue its northwestern minorities is predicated upon a perverse and intrusive combination of coercive labor, intergenerational separation, and complete social control.

As Zenz explains, under China’s poverty alleviation, minority populations are simply taken from their families and their current jobs and placed in “labor-intensive sweatshops,” and labeling this “job training.” More from Zenz:

The irony of placing interned Uighurs into labor-intensive sweatshops is that many of them were extremely skilled businesspeople, intellectuals, or scientists. Several years ago, flourishing Uighur businesses abroad were severely impacted by seizures of passports, and Uighurs have been progressively forced out of eastern Chinese labor markets. While there are many Uighurs living marginal economic existences, this group are not people who need unskilled labor jobs paid at around 85 cents per hour.

But for Beijing, the real aim is not to improve Uighurs’ lives. It is to achieve so-called social stability in its most extreme form imaginable: the state controlling the educational, work, and care placement of every family member, however old they are.

Zenz goes on to write that the “first layer of the scheme is the most blatantly coercive.” China’s Xinjiang region is using the claim that it is providing “vocational education and training” to get businesses to “train and employ internment camp detainees.” He wrote that these companies receive thousands of Ren Min Bi (RBI) for the companies per detainee. They receive 1,800 for each detainee they train and an additional 5,000 for each one they employ.

China, however, spins this as a positive, Zenz wrote, claiming this forced labor scheme “has attracted a large number of coastal enterprises from the mainland to invest and build factories, which has powerfully expanded employment and promoted increased incomes.”

Remember that those forced into this kind of labor have come from China’s internment camps. Survivors of the camps have told horror stories of rape, torture, and human experimentation. International organizations have also noted that the camps appear to be, at least in part, a scheme to collect organs to feed China’s “transplant tourism” trade, where wealthy people from around the world pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get an organ transplant with little to no wait time.