Thousands of Muslims from China’s Uighur minority group are working under coercive conditions at factories that supply some of the world’s biggest brands, a new report says.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said this was the next phase in China’s re-education of Uighurs.
Between 2017 and 2019, the ASPI think tank estimates that more than 80,000 Uighurs were transferred out of the far western Xinjiang autonomous region to work in factories across China. It said some were sent directly from detention camps.
According to the report, the factories claim to be part of the supply chain for 83 well-known global brands, including Nike, Apple and Dell.
Pressure and condemnation from a multitude of international governments couldn’t convince China to change their horrendous treatment of the Uigurs. Maybe economic pressure from multinational corporations could.
That’s assuming they’re prepared to put their money where their supposed values are, of course. That seems unlikely.
Tripp Mickle and Yoko Kubota for The Wall Street Journal:
China has been a critical factor in Apple’s soaring market value. The country provides a stable, efficient, low-cost manufacturing base with an abundant network of suppliers that have helped cement Apple’s profitability.
A clean break with China is impossible.
Up to three million “indirect workers” are involved in Apple’s production lines in China. Is Apple going to change their approach because of a subset of 80,000 people are being forced to work in factories making their products? No.
Apple have likely already squared whatever moral loss they have here with the economic gains of working with China. This development changes the equation, however. China’s treatment of its Uighur population is reprehensible. People have been detained and repressed at a scale that boggles the mind. Benefitting from this oppression – even incidentally, even unintentionally – because people are being forced to work in one of your factories – even if you don’t run that factory – makes Apple (and others) complicit.
That’s the reality of a globalised, interconnected supply chain. You don’t get to get into bed with a country and then say you were asleep when they roll over and do something horrendous.