Forced Uyghur labor undergirds Xinjiang’s export boom

The Chinese province of Xinjiang is synonymous with human rights abuses, mass incarceration, and forced labor. Western sanctions have come into force as a result. But the South China Morning Post reported on October 24 that Xinjiang’s foreign exports surged by a record 49% in the first three quarters of 2023, driven by a 50 percent increase in exported labor-intensive products — the types of goods most at risk of involving forced Uyghur labor. Kashgar prefecture, located in the Uyghur heartland, increased its foreign trade by a stunning 113 percent.

How is this growth possible after many major international corporations stopped sourcing from the region, and after the U.S. government implemented an import ban?My new research, published on Oct. 25, helps explain it. Instead of just forcing Uyghurs detained in re-education camps to perform forced labor, Beijing has increasingly coerced them into work settings that appear voluntary, but are not.

It should not be a mystery to either government officials or human rights watchdogs where Xinjiang’s economic boost is coming from. Nor should they wonder what is happening to Uyghurs who resist such insidious involuntary work arrangements: My research presents the first direct evidence that Beijing is punishing such disobedience with internment.

Read the full article by VOC’s Senior Fellow and Director in China Studies, Dr. Adrian Zenz, in The Hill.