Opinion: Are products from Chinese torture camps being sold abroad?



Wednesday, December 26, 2018

ChinaAid

(Urumqi, Xinjiang—Dec. 26, 2018) “Made in China”; it’s a label we all have on our clothes and the products we buy, but could they be coming from inside Xinjiang’s notorious “re-education camps,” where minority inmates are wrongfully imprisoned and abused?

Last week, the Associated Press (AP) published a report that disclosed the routine shipment of sportswear from one such camp to a company in North Carolina. Once notified, the organization, which was not previously aware that its products were being made in the camp, decided to source its work elsewhere and investigate the situation.

However, the report noted that the packages had made it to the U.S. despite existing laws banning the delivery of unethically made items. This opens the possibility that other companies outside of China are also unknowingly purchasing items made in the camps and selling them.

Former inmates of such camps and family members whose relatives are imprisoned spoke to the AP, saying that the prisoners are forced to work in such factories, and the highest paid ones make barely over minimum wage while others must work for no compensation. In addition, numerous firsthand accounts indicate that inmates at such camps—who are primarily ethnic minority Muslims—are first falsely accused of a crime and then tortured, denied food and water, and brainwashed until they pledge allegiance to the Communist Party. The UN estimates that around 1 million people have been detained in these camps.

The Chinese government claims it does this to curb terrorism in the region, but many are arrested for trivial actions, such as planning to visit relatives abroad or posting a verse from the Qur’an online.

Engaging in corporate social responsibility, which urges companies to recognize the imprint they leave on society at large, requires in-depth research into how items are made. Purchases from these “re-education” locales should be considered detrimental to corporate social responsibility, as they allow funding to go to the camps. In addition, the United Nations has formed the United Nations Global Compact, an organization whose partial aim is to encourage companies to respect human rights in their business practices. Ordering items from places associated with China’s crackdown on minority Muslims does not meet the Global Compact’s Principles 1 and 2, which urge businesses to “ … support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights …” and “make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses,” respectively. It is pertinent that companies who buy products from China ensure they are not unintentionally paying for work that comes at the price of innocent Chinese citizens’ freedom and well-being.

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