Over 570,000 Uyghurs in Forced Cotton-Picking, A Social Engineering Project : Analysis

Rural laborers from souther Xinjiang prefectures are sent off to work in the industrial centre. (Loulannews via CGPolicy)

A motivation for coercive labor is not just economic but to keep minorities occupied and surveilled, the analyst stated.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority labourers in the ethnic Uyghurs' north-western region, called Xinjiang by Communist China, are being forced into picking cotton by hand through a coercive state labour scheme, a report has said. But Communist China conducts massive control, limiting the development of minorities living in East Turkestan with forced labor, which is, in reality, a massive social engineering project.

Rights activists have said, and the US State Department has confirmed in its annual reports and statements since, at least since 2017, that the north-western Xinjiang region is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps. China has imprisoned at least one million people. But it has tried to disguise it as vocational training centres to counter extremism.

The total number involved in forced Xinjiang cotton-picking - which relies heavily on manual labour -
exceeds that figure by several hundred thousand.


A report by Washington-based think tank the Centre for Global Policy published on Monday revealed that in 2018, three majority-Uighur regions within Xinjiang sent at least 570,000 people to pick cotton. According to the online Chinese government documents, it was a part of a state-run coercive labour transfer scheme.

A 19 pages report titled Coercive Labor in Xinjiang: Labor Transfer and the Mobilization of Ethnic Minorities to Pick Cotton, with 64 footnotes, out of which 46 are original Chinese sources, is authored by the specialist on China’s ethnic policy towards Tibet and Xinjiang, Dr. Adrian Zenz.

Researchers estimate that the total number involved in coerced Xinjiang cotton-picking - which relies heavily on manual labour - exceeds that figure by several hundred thousand.


A map of the cotton plantations in Xinjiang in 2017. Xinjiang produces about 85 percent of all Chinese cotton. (Source: Center for Global Policy)


It is clear that labour transfers for cotton-picking involve a very high risk of forced labour, Mr. Zenz, who uncovered the documents, wrote in the report. Some minorities may exhibit a degree of consent concerning this process, and they may benefit financially. However, it is impossible to define where coercion ends and where local consent may begin.

More scrutiny needed for every Chinese cotton-made product, even if produced outside of China

The report also emphasises that the true goal of the forced labor, in the "unprecedented police state" as the analyst calls contemporary Xinjiang, is not poverty alleviation as the Chinese Communist Party has deceptively portrayed it but total control of the Uyghur population.

Factory workers who work and live on secure compounds with dormitories live in environments that are more easily controlled by the state than pastoralists or farmers, stated Dr. Zenz. Placing minorities into full-time wage labor has become a cornerstone of the state’s coercive social re-engineering project. This scheme of coercive labor is not directly linked to the extrajudicial internment camps.

Placing minorities into full-time wage labor, fully controlled by the regime,
has become a cornerstone of the state’s coercive social re-engineering project.


The author of the report recommends more scrutiny of any product made in whole or part with cotton since 85 per cent of all Chinese cotton originates in Xinjiang even if any related production takes place outside of China.

Xinjiang is a global hub for the crop, producing over 20 per cent of the world's cotton, with the report warning of the "potentially drastic consequences" for global supply chains.

In the Uyghurs for Sale report, published in March, researchers at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, revealed that more than 80 global brands in technology, clothing and auto-industry, including Apple, BMW, Calvin Klein, Dell, Fila, Gap, Huawei, H&M, Nike, Samsung, Skechers, Sony, Victoria’s Secret and Volkswagen. are subcontracting slaves, Uyghurs.


Xinjiang’s motivation for coercive labor is not just economic. A key goal is to keep minorities occupied and surveilled. (p.7)

Chen [Quanguo] set up an unprecedented police state in the region, and then in the spring of 2017 initiated the campaign of mass internment whereby up to an estimated 1.8 million ethnic minorities were detained in a sprawling network of internment camps. (p. 10)

We can estimate that Aksu, Hotan, and Kashgar alone mobilized an estimated 570,000 cotton pickers through the coercive labor transfer mechanism. (p. 9)

In a village in Jiashi County in Kashgar Prefecture, where locals were discovered to be “unwilling to go out to work,” officials entered every home for a second time and undertook “thought education work” until 60 persons had been mobilized into picking cotton. Many of those shown lining up in front of the labor transfer bus are elderly men and women, because at that time (September 2017) many among the younger population had been sent to internment camps.(p. 16)

(...) the recruitment and deployment of cotton pickers takes place within the general context of a coercive labor transfer scheme. This by itself would constitute sufficient evidence to raise serious concerns over forced labor in cotton picking. The abundance of cases presented in this section strengthens this evidence considerably, given that these cases clearly demonstrate coercion in labor transfer processes specific to cotton picking. (p. 19)

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