New Report: Xinjiang’s Forced Labor Policies Justify New European Import Bans

Media Contact:
Sarah Hrovat

Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2022) – Today, a new report — “Unemployment Monitoring and Early Warning: New Trends in Xinjiang’s Coercive Labor Placement Systems” — authored by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) Senior Fellow and Director in China Studies, Dr. Adrian Zenz, was published by The Jamestown Foundation.

The 10-page report analyzed data that includes internal speeches by central government leaders (the “Xinjiang Papers”), the 13th Five-Year Poverty Alleviation Plan from June 2017 and Xinjiang’s key regional and local Five-Year Plans (2021-2025), as well as trade data.

“This is the first examination to draw on evidence from internal speeches by central government leaders that set the stage for Beijing’s foundational policy shift that forced hundreds of thousands of minorities into re-education camps, forced labor, and coercive labor transfer,” said Dr. Zenz. “Individuals who were coercively mobilized into work placements are now effectively prevented from leaving them, making them vulnerable to a host of abuses by local authorities that continue to come to light. And as monitoring is a new development, this makes detection of forced labor by researchers and supply chain auditors more difficult.”

Highlights include:

  • The CCP’s forced labor policies are shifting to a new phase from mass displacement of ethnic minorities to ongoing monitoring and control.
  • The incriminating statements from leading central government officials including General Secretary Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Politburo Standing Committee Member Yu Zhengsheng that led to atrocity-related directives.
  • Strong evidence of labor transfers and state-led employment and Xi Jinping’s demand from 2014 to “systematically expand the scale of [relocating] Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities to other parts of China to receive education, employment, and residence.”
  • Plans that outline large-scale promotion of “order-oriented employment skills training” where companies place orders for workers, and the state takes, trains, and delivers them to these companies.
  • An evaluation of Beijing’s massive expansion of coercive “poverty alleviation” tactics that break up families and cut the transmission of cultural and spiritual knowledge.
  • Estimates that between 2 million and 2.5 million persons in Xinjiang are at risk of further coercive labor.

The report also shows that the impact of these forced labor policies is impacting the trade data. The export volume of Xinjiang products at risk of forced labor grew 31% in 2021, while in the first third of 2022, the value share of exported labor-intensive products grew even faster at 63.4% year-on-year, outpacing the region’s total export volume.

The analysis concludes that Beijing is making Xinjiang into an export-oriented economy, thus increasingly tainting foreign markets with the product of forced labor, notably the European Union.

Meanwhile Xinjiang trade with the U.S. has fallen in response to targeted import bans enacted through legislation and executive action. The foreign trade volume of key Uyghur majority population regions in southern Xinjiang grew much faster than Xinjiang’s total foreign trade volume, making this a real cause for concern for policy makers.

The report combs through the available data and adds substantially to the case for why the European Union and European national governments need U.S.-style import bans of their own. New bans would ensure compliance with international labor norms and that domestic businesses and consumers are not directly, or indirectly, supporting forced labor in China.

“The report is conclusive; the prevalence of coercive forms of labor abuses in Xinjiang is pervasive and large-scale and can only have been achieved by forcibly moving millions of Uyghur laborers from rural to industrial livelihoods,” said Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President and CEO of VOC. “Because China has no intention of abandoning its coercive labor schemes in the region, the EU, the UK and other countries have a moral obligation to impose import bans to ensure the incentive to profit from slave labor is severely curtailed if not eliminated.”

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is an educational, research, and human rights nonprofit devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to pursuing the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.