According to a November 2021 report, more than a hundred international brands selling Uighur-related cotton products in China’s Xinjiang region are “at risk” due to the “vague” way from which cotton actually comes from China’s cotton industry. are in”.
Report, Laundering Cotton, How Xinjiang Cotton Observed in International Supply Chains, by Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice The University of Sheffield Hallam in England, found that five major Chinese yarn and fabric suppliers are using cotton from the Uighur region. They export their semi-finished goods to international intermediary manufacturers who ship finished cotton products to international brands around the world, including the US.
“Through this process, we were able to map potential supply chains that connect Xinjiang Cotton to over a hundred international brands,” the report said.
According to the report’s lead author Laura Murphy and professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Sheffield Hallam University in England, about 85% of China’s cotton production is in Xinjiang, where local authorities have been accused of forcing Uyghur people into labor. .
“They [local authorities] Murphy told the Granthshala that people—sometimes entire villages—are forced to give up their leases of land. “And then they are treated as ‘excess labour’ by the government and are made more vulnerable to state-sponsored labor transfers.”
Over the past four years, Beijing has been accused by some human rights organizations and countries of arbitrarily detaining more than 1 million Uighurs and some other Turkic ethnic minorities in detention camps in Xinjiang, while many others have been subjected to forced labor. has been forced.
According to the report, some facilities that processed cotton were “located near or within a prison or camp.”
China says the facilities are not detention camps, but “vocational training centers” where people learn new skills, and Beijing reiterates that the country does not impose forced labor on Uighurs and that the labor system is aimed only at helping Uighurs. poverty alleviation” programmes. ,
Earlier this year, the U.S. Import of all cotton products banned From China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Uyghur cites forced labor in cotton production along with other items such as tomato products.
of china foreign ministry spokespersonZhao Lijian stressed that Uyghur forced labor by some Western countries, including the United States, to stifle China’s development is the “biggest lie of the century”.
“The United States makes up lies and takes drastic action based on its lies for violating international trade rules and market economy principles,” Zhao said at a press briefing in January. The Xinjiang affairs are China’s internal affairs that no other country has the right or privilege to intervene.
Using international trade and customs data from the past two years, the report’s authors found that 52% of China’s exported cotton, yarn and fabric went to 53 intermediary manufacturers in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia. has been sent. , Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Mexico, where cotton based apparel is supplied to 103 renowned global brands.
As a result, the report said, many international brands “may be unintentionally buying” goods made by Uighur forced labor.
To make sure these brands aren’t supporting an economy of forced labor, Murphy said they need to trace raw material sources through their supply chain.
“Complicated supply chains can obscure the source of raw materials,” Murphy told Granthshala. “Sometimes suppliers may hide their sourcing or combine different sources of cotton.”
Murphy says that some companies are actively examining all their suppliers and sub-suppliers to ensure that no Xinjiang cotton is included in their products. “Other companies simply would prefer not to know, although this is becoming more difficult with international pressure, new research and import legislation.”
Murphy says that’s no excuse for companies not to know where their products come from. “If a supplier cannot tell a brand where they are sourcing from and provide strong evidence of that sourcing, the brand must terminate the relationship with that supplier.”