No concentration camps in China just ‘vocational training centres,’ says envoy
Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig being treated fairly under Chinese law, says Cong Peiwu
Murray Brewster · CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2020 3:28 PM ET | Last Updated: March 5, 2020
Detention camps housing perhaps as many as one million ethnic Uighurs in western China are nothing more than “vocational training centres,” the country’s ambassador to Canada insisted on Wednesday.
Cong Peiwu, speaking at a security and defence conference in Ottawa, was put on the hot seat several times during a panel discussion about the competition between great powers in the Middle East.
He discussed how China could use soft power influence in the troubled region while being asked whether it is detaining a substantial number of Muslim Uighurs against their will in high-tech concentration camps.
Cong took issue with the characterization.
“There’s nothing like concentration camps in China,” he said.
Last fall, a leak of internal Chinese government documents to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) painted a stark picture of camps, which have been built across Xinjiang region in the past three years.
The leaked documents, dubbed “The China Cables” by the ICJI, contain a nine-page 2017 memo, sent from the then deputy-secretary of province’s Communist Party to the officials in charge of the camps.
The memo spells out how the camps should be run as high-security prisons, complete with strict discipline and punishments.
The publication of the records by media outlets around the world, including CBC News, caused a sensation and led to condemnation from several governments, including Global Affairs Canada, which said it was concerned about “credible reports of the mass detention, repression and surveillance” in Xinjiang.
Chinese officials, including Cong, have responded by attempting to discredit the reports.
“Some of the western media can be misleading you. So, be careful. There’s a lot of fake news,” he said As for the concentration camps, as you call it … actually it was used to be vocational training centres.”
He stuck to Beijing’s often-repeated position that the camps were necessary to quell the unrest from a few years ago.
“So, that’s why the government had to take preventative measures when it comes to counter-terrorism,” he said.
Apr 4, 2020,08:30am EDT|60,385 views
The Fate Of Uighur Muslims In China: From Re-education Camps To Forced Labor
According to a recent report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), between 2017 and 2019, the Chinese Government facilitated the transfer of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to factories in various parts of China.
The allegations come several months after the situation in Xinjiang hit the headlines with reports of the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims in so-called “re-education camps.” According to them, there are an estimated one million (if not more) Uighur Muslims detained in so-called “re-education camps” which are designed to strip them of their religious and ethnic identity and replace it with absolute loyalty to the state.
According to the ASPI report, there are strong indications that some 80,000 Uighurs have been forced to work in factories that form part of the supply chains of at least 83 global brands including “Abercrombie & Fitch, Acer, Adidas, Alstom, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Calvin Klein, Candy, Carter’s, Cerruti 1881, Changan Automobile, Cisco, CRRC, Dell, Electrolux, Fila, Founder Group, GAC Group (automobiles), Gap, Geely Auto, General Electric, General Motors, Google, H&M, Haier, Hart Scha ner Marx, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Jack & Jones, Jaguar, Japan Display Inc., L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Land Rover, Lenovo, LG, Li-Ning, Mayor, Meizu, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Microso , Mitsubishi, Mitsumi, Nike, Nintendo, Nokia, The North Face, Oculus, Oppo, Panasonic, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Roewe, SAIC Motor, Samsung, SGMW, Sharp, Siemens, Skechers, Sony, TDK, Tommy Hilfiger, Toshiba, Tsinghua Tongfang, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, Vivo, Volkswagen, Xiaomi, Zara, Zegna, ZTE.”
The report suggests that these companies have been using forced Uighur labor in their supply chains. As a result, they could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labor. Among the International Labor Organisation (ILO) forced labor indicators, the report identified the following factors as relevant for the case of the Uighur Muslims:
“• being subjected to intimidation and threats, such as the threat of arbitrary detention, and being monitored by security personnel and digital surveillance tools
• being placed in a position of dependency and vulnerability, such as by threats to family members back in Xinjiang
• having freedom of movement restricted, such as by fenced-in factories and high-tech surveillance
• isolation, such as living in segregated dormitories and being transported in dedicated trains
• abusive working conditions, such as political indoctrination, police guard posts in factories, ‘military-style’ management, and a ban on religious practices
• excessive hours, such as after-work Mandarin language classes and political indoctrination sessions that are part of job assignments.”
The report focuses on a few case studies. For example, the report alleges that in January 2020, around 600 ethnic minority workers from Xinjiang were employed at Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd., making Nike sneakers. It further adds that: “At the factory, the Uighur laborers make Nike shoes during the day. In the evening, they attend a night school where they study Mandarin, sing the Chinese national anthem and receive ‘vocational training’ and ‘patriotic education.’ The curriculum closely mirrors that of Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’.”