VOC Releases New Research Revealing Beijing’s Intensified Forced Labor Against Uyghurs Under Guise of Poverty Alleviation

New research by Dr. Adrian Zenz, senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, reveals how Beijing is expanding its system of forced labor in Xinjiang while hiding it behind poverty alleviation programs. The findings are detailed in a new paper published today in the academic journal Central Asian Survey

Dr. Zenz’s research lays bare how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has coerced hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs into factory jobs far from home since 2016, justifying the practice as reducing poverty and unemployment. However, this serves to undermine Uyghur identity and culture. For the first time, key new witness and documentary evidence conclusively shows that Uyghurs who decline to comply with state employment mandates are liable to be detained in camps.

“The CCP used forced detentions as just one method of punishing non-compliance in the programs,” explains Dr. Zenz. “One woman was detained for harboring ‘extreme religious thoughts’ after refusing a factory job arranged by the government because she had two small children and elderly in-laws to care for.” 

The new paper gives authoritative proof of punitive detention for the first time. A 2017 directive from Kashgar outlined criteria for “strike-hard” detention, including refusing poverty alleviation policies, not participating in labor transfers, and rejecting job opportunities. This corroborates Xinjiang’s 2018 De-Extremification Regulation, which labels rejecting state employment programs as extremism punishable by internment.

The research further reveals that the scope of these coercive labor transfers has dramatically increased, from over two million to over three million annually. Meanwhile the CCP has made forced labor less visible by curbing or ending the camp-to-labor system and instead relying more on so-called poverty alleviation programs to place Uyghurs into forced work. New policies under Xinjiang’s party secretary Ma Xingrui use “unemployment monitoring” to make it nearly impossible for Uyghurs to leave jobs arranged by the state.

“The CCP’s manipulation of the language of poverty reduction has made the Party comfortable to sign on to an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on forced labor which came into force last August,” Dr. Zenz warns. “Beijing seems to believe that forced labor arrangements can be successfully spun as employment programs to those investigating its treatment of Uyghurs and Kazakhs.”

Dr. Zenz cautions that future ILO inspection missions are liable to be treated to Potemkin scenes of voluntary employment, unless they understand how state-imposed forced labor is hidden beneath the guise of poverty alleviation in Xinjiang. “After paying insufficient attention to systems of state-imposed forced labor for much of the past 20 years, the ILO and other western observers must see through Beijing’s propaganda,” he urges.

The full findings are detailed in Dr. Zenz’s research article, “The Conceptual Evolution of Poverty Alleviation Through Labor Transfer” published on October 25, 2023 in the academic journal Central Asian Survey.


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