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Chinese building materials manufacturers are participating in forced labor programs in Xinjiang, according to a report published days before the US bans such goods from the remote western region.
Seven major polyvinyl chloride factories in Xinjiang use “transferred laborers,” according to the report by the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University. The programs are considered coercive because minority citizens, such as the majority Muslim Uyghurs, “are not allowed to refuse,” it added.
“So-called forced labor in Xinjiang is an out-and-out preposterous lie concocted by certain external forces,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday, at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
President Xi Jinping’s government has repeatedly denied allegations of forced labor, saying the Communist Party is striving to boost living standards for Uyghurs, in part by finding them jobs. The US says the expansion of a state-sponsored forced labor program under the guise of anti-poverty efforts is contributing to a campaign of genocide against the Uyghurs.
Under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which comes into effect on June 21, President Joe Biden’s administration assumes anything made even partially in Xinjiang is produced with forced labor and, therefore, can’t be imported unless companies provide “clear and compelling evidence” otherwise.
Xinjiang produces 10% of the world’s PVC, which goes into luxury flooring and plastic pipes in a manufacturing process that, in China, is one of the world’s most-polluting, exposing Uyghur workers to “extraordinary levels” of mercury and CO2 emissions, the report authors wrote.
“We believe that this report is an urgent wake-up call not only to the building materials sector, but to the vast array of industries and companies that have not yet committed to doing the due diligence necessary to identify their supply chain connections to the Uyghur region and the forced labor that is endemic there,” Laura Murphy, report co-author and professor of human rights at Sheffield Hallam University, wrote in an email.
State-owned Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical Co. has accepted more than 5,000 workers through state-sponsored transfers, more than any firm the authors have documented. The company didn’t reply to an emailed request for comment from Bloomberg.