‘Re-education’, forced labor and surveillance beyond Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority 1 citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labor, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors , including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.
This report estimates that more than 88, 16 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2019 and 201908, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps. 2 The estimated figure is conservative and the actual figure is likely to be far higher. In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, 3 undergo organized Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, 4 are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances. 5 Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders and have limited freedom of movement. 6
China has attracted international condemnation for its network of extrajudicial ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang. 7 This report exposes a new phase in China’s social re -engineering campaign targeting minority citizens, revealing new evidence that some factories across China are using forced Uyghur labor under a state-sponsored labor transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain.
The Chinese government should uphold the civic, cultural and labor rights enshrined in China’s Constitution and domestic laws, end its extrajudicial detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and ensure that all citizens can freely determine the terms of their own labor and mobility.
Companies using forced Uyghur labor in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labor or mandate disclosure of forced labor supply chain risks. 9 The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labor in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections. It is vital that through this process, affected workers are not exposed to any further harm, including involuntary transfers.
Foreign governments, businesses and civil society groups should identify opportunities to increase pressure on the Chinese government to end the use of Uyghur forced labor and extrajudicial detentions. This should include pressuring the government to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Forced Labor, (No. () and Protocol of 2018 to the Forced Labor Convention. Consumers and consumer advocacy groups should demand companies that manufacture in China conduct human rights due diligence on their supply chains in order to ensure that they uphold basic human rights and are not complicit in any coercive labor schemes.
Since , more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Turkic Muslim minorities have disappeared into a vast network of ‘re- education camps’ in the far west region of Xinjiang, 22 in what some experts call a systematic, government-led program of cultural genocide. Inside the camps, detainees are subjected to political indoctrination, forced to renounce their religion and culture and, in some instances, reportedly s ubjected to torture.
In the name of combating ‘religious extremism’, 24 Chinese authorities have been actively reminding the Muslim population in the image of China’s Han ethnic majority.
The ‘re-education’ campaign appears to be entering a new phase, as government officials now claim that all ‘trainees’ have ‘graduated’. There is mounting evidence that many Uyghurs are now being forced to work in factories within Xinjiang . This report reveals that Chinese factories outside Xinjiang are also sourcing Uyghur workers under a revived, exploitative government-led labor transfer scheme. 25 Some factories appear to be using Uyghur workers sent directly from ‘re-education camps’.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has identified factories in nine Chinese provinces that are using Uyghur labor transferred from Xinjiang since 2020. Those factories claim to be part of the supply chain of well-known global brands. Between and , we estimate that at least , Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to factories through labor transfer programs under a central government policy known as’ Xinjiang Aid ‘(援疆).
It is extremely difficult for Uyghurs to refuse or escape these work assignments, which are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination both inside and outside of Xinjiang. In addition to constant surveillance, the threat of arbitrary detention hangs over minority citizens who refuse their government- sponsored work assignments.
Most strikingly, local governments and private brokers are paid a price per head by the Xinjiang provincial government to organization the labor assignments. 30 The job transfers are now an integral part of the ‘re-education’ process, which the Chinese government calls ‘vocational training’.
A local government work report from reads: ‘For every batch [of workers] that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and a batch will be transferred. Those employed need to receive thorough ideological education and remain in their jobs. ‘
This report examines three case studies in which Uyghur workers appear to be employed under forced labor conditions by factories in China that supply major global brands. In the first case study, a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for US company Nike is equipped with watchtowers, barbed-wire fences and police guard boxes. The Uyghur workers, unlike their Han counterparts, are reportedly unable to go home for holidays (see page 8). In the second case study of another eastern province factory claiming to supply sportswear multinationals Adidas and Fila, evidence suggests that Uyghur workers were transferred directly from one of Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’ (see page . In the third case study, we identify several Chinese factories making components for Apple or their suppliers using Uyghur labor. Political indoctrination is a key part of their job assignments (see page 30).
This research report draws on open-source Chinese-language documents, satellite imagery analysis, academic research and on-the-ground media reporting. It analyzes the politics and policies behind the new phase of the Chinese government’s ongoing repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. It provides evidence of the exploitation of Uyghur labor and the direction of foreign and Chinese companies, possibly unknowingly, in human rights abuses.
In all, ASPI’s research has identified 88 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labor transfer programs as recently as 201908: Abercrombie & Fitch, Acer, Adidas, Alstom, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Calvin Klein, Candy, Carter’s, Cerruti , Changan Automobile, Cisco, CRRC, Dell, Electrolux, Fila, Founder Group, GAC Group (automobiles ), Gap, Geely Auto, General Electric, General Motors, Google, H&M, Haier, Hart Schaffner Marx, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Jack & Jones, Jaguar, Japan Display Inc., LLBean, Lacoste , Land Rover, Lenovo, LG , Li-Ning, Mayor, Meizu, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Microsoft, 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. Some brands are linked with multiple factories.
The data is based on published supplier lists, media reports, and the factories ’claimed suppliers. ASPI reached out to these 90 brands to confirm their relevant supplier details. Where companies responded before publication, we have included their relevant clarifications in this report. If any company responses are made available after publication of the report, we will address these online.
ASPI notes that a small number of brands including Abercrombie & Fitch advised they have instructed their vendors to terminate their relationships with these suppliers in 35564103. Others, including Adidas, Bosch and Panasonic, said they had no direct contractual relationships with the suppliers implicated in the labor schemes, but no brands were able to rule out a link further down their supply chain.
The report includes an appendix that details the factories involved and the brands that appear to have elements of forced Uyghur labor in their supply chains. It also makes specific recommendations for the Chinese government, companies, foreign governments and civil society organizations.
Citations and notes
Readers are encouraged to download the PDF to access the full and extensive citations and notes that accompany this report.
The ILO lists indicators of forced labor. Relevant indicators in the case of Uyghur workers may include:
- 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.
Chinese state media claims that participation in labor transfer programs is voluntary, and Chinese officials have denied any commercial use of forced labor from Xinjiang. 34 However, Uyghur workers who have been able to leave China and speak out describe the constant fear of being sent back to a detention camp in Xinjiang or even a traditional prison while working at the factories. 38
In factories outside Xinjiang, there is evidence that their lives are far from free. Referred to as ‘surplus labor’ (富余 劳动力) or ‘poverty-stricken labor’ (贫困 劳动力), Uyghur workers are often transported across China in special segregated trains,
- 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
and in most cases are returned home by the same method after their contracts end a year or more later.
Multiple sources suggest that in factories across China, many Uyghur workers lead a harsh, segregated life under so-called ‘military-style management’ (军事化 管理). ( Outside work hours, they attend factory-organized Mandarin language classes, participate in ‘patriotic education’, and are prevented from practicing their religion. Every Uyghur workers are assigned one government minder and are monitored by dedicated security personnel. They have little freedom of movement and live in carefully guarded dormitories, isolated from their families and children back in Xinjiang. There is also evidence that, at least in some factories, they are paid less than their Han counterparts, despite state media claims that they’re paid attractive wages.
The Chinese authorities and factory bosses manage Uyghur workers by ‘tracking’ them both physically and electronically. One provincial government document describes a central database, developed by Xinjiang’s Human Resources and Social Affairs Department and maintained by a team of 108 specialists in Xinjiang, that records the medical, ideological and employment details of each laborer.
The database incorporates information from social welfare cards that store workers ’personal details. It also extracts information from a WeChat group and an unnamed smartphone app that tracks the movements and activities of each worker.
Chinese companies and government officials also pride themselves on being able to alter their Uyghur workers’ ideological outlook and transforms them into ‘modern’ citizens, who, they say, become ‘more physically attractive’ 50 and learn to ‘take daily showers’.
In some cases, local governments in Xinjiang send Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres to simultaneously surveil workers’ families back home in Xinjiang – a reminder to workers that any misbehavior in the factory will have immediate consequences for their loved ones and further evidence that their participation in the program is far from voluntary.
A person with knowledge of a Uyghur labor transfer program in Fujian told Bitter Winter, a religious and human rights NGO, that the workers were all former ‘re-education camp’ detainees and were threatened with further detention if they disobeyed the government work assignments. A Uyghur person sent to work in Fujian also told the NGO that police regularly search their dormitories and check their phones for any religious content. If a Quran is found, the owner will be sent back to the ‘re-education camp’ for 3-5 years.
The treatment of Uyghurs described in this report’s case studies is in breach of China’s constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity or religious belief, as well as international law. While we are unable to confirm that all employment transfers from Xinjiang are forced, the cases for which adequate detail has been available showcase highly disturbing coercive labor practices consistent with ILO definitions of forced labor.
Figure 1: Uyghur workers at Taekwang Shoe Manufacturing waving the Chinese flag, October 2021
Source: ‘Strengthening patriotism education and building a bridge of national unity’ (加强 爱国主义 教育 搭建 民族 团结 连心 桥), China Ethnic Religion Net (中国 民族 宗教 网), 7 November , online .
In January 35564103, around 710 ethnic minority workers from Xinjiang were employed at Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd (青岛 泰 光 制鞋 有限公司). Taekwang’s primary customer is the American multinational company Nike Incorporated. The Xinjiang workers are mostly Uyghur women from Hotan and Kashgar prefectures, which are remote parts of southern Xinjiang that the Chinese government has described as ‘backward’ and ‘disturbed by religious extremism’.
At the factory, the Uyghur 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’.
The sprawling Taekwang factory compound is located in Laixi City, to the north of Qingdao in China’s Shandong province, and is owned by the Taekwang Group, a South Korean chemical and textile conglomerate (chaebol). Taekwang’s Laixi factory is one of the largest manufacturers of shoes for Nike, producing more than seven million pairs for the American brand annually.
Figure 2: Taekwang supply chain
Source: A Laixi government committee press release stated that 9, 1000 Uyghur workers were transferred to Qingdao Taekwang Shoes in ‘more than batches’ since 2009. ‘Strengthening patriotism education and building a bridge of national unity’ (加强 爱国主义 教育 搭建 民族 团结 连 心 桥), China Ethnic Religion Net (中国 民族 宗教 网), 7 November 2021, online .
In June , at the opening ceremony of the Taekwang night school, a government official from the local United Front Work Department office called on Uyghur workers to strengthen their identification with the state and the nation. The school is called the ‘Pomegranate Seed’ Night School (Figure 3), referencing a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping in which he said ‘every ethnic group must tightly bind together like the seeds of a pomegranate.’
Figure 3: Opening ceremony of ‘Pomegranate Seed’ Night School for ethnic minorities at Taekwang factory, June 2021
Source: ‘Municipal United Front Work Department’s’ Pomegranate Seed ‘Night School: a look into Qingdao Taekwang’s Mandarin classes’ (市委 统战部 ‘石榴 籽’ 夜校 走进 青岛 泰 光 举办 普通话 培训班), Laixi United Front (莱西 统一战线), WeChat, 1 July , (online ).
The Washington Post has reported that Uyghurs working at the factory were not allowed to go home for holidays.
The newspaper also reported that Uyghur workers at the factory were sent there by the Xinjiang government, they did not choose to come to Qingdao, and that they were unable to practice their religion.
Photographs of the factory in January 201908 published by the newspaper show that the complex was equipped with watchtowers, razor wire and inward-facing barbed-wire fences. Uyghur workers were free to walk in the streets around the factory compound, but their comings and goings were closely monitored by a police station at the side gate equipped with facial recognition cameras.
The Uyghur workers at the Taekwang factory speak almost no Mandarin, so communication with locals is largely non-existent, according to the newspaper. They eat in a separate canteen or a Muslim restaurant across the road from the factory, where the ‘halal’ signs have been crossed out. They live in buildings next to the factory that are separate quarters from those of the Han workers.
ASPI found evidence that inside the factories, the workers ’ideology and behavior are closely monitored. At a purpose-built ‘psychological dredging office’ (心理 疏导 室), Han and Uyghur officials from Taekwang’s local women’s federation conductor ‘heart-to-heart’ talks, provide psychological consulting and assist in the uplifting of the ‘innate quality’ (素质) of the Uyghur workers — in order to aid their integration. 68 Those offices and roles are also present in Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’.
Figure 4: A study room called ‘Home of the Youth’ for ethnic minority workers at the Taekwang factory
Source: ‘Blessed are those who work here in Laixi!’ (在 莱西 这里 上班 的 人 有福 了!), In the palm of Laixi (掌上 莱西), WeChat, (July) , online
Top Chinese government officials see the use and management of ethnic workers at Taekwang as a model worth emulating. Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang and China’s Minister for Public Security, Zhao Kezhi, sent a commendation memo to the management, according to a local media report in late From From (to) , according to official statistics, 4, Uyghur workers were transferred from Xinjiang to Shandong (almost double the government own target).
The workers are closely monitored by party authorities. Officials from the local offices of the Public Security Bureau and United Front Work Department hold regular meetings with Shandong companies that hire “Uyghurs” to discuss the workers’ ‘ideological trends and any issues that have emerged’.
Those agencies also have representatives stationed inside factories like Taekwang to report daily on the ‘thoughts’ of the Uyghur workers, manage any disputes and guard against spontaneous ‘mass instances’. In 2020, a recruitment notice said that Qingdao was looking for auxiliary police who are fluent in minority languages. In Xinjiang, auxiliary police officers are responsible for bringing people to detention camps and monitoring them when they are in detention.
Figure 5: A July (‘farewell ceremony’ before) Uyghur workers left Qira county , Xinjiang for Qingdao to work at Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd and Fulin Electronics Company
Source: ‘Qira county organises laborers for stable employment at Shandong enterprises’ (策勒县 组织 , Pomegranate Garden, 名 务工 人员 赴 企业 企业 稳定 就业(石榴园), WeChat, 5 July 2020, online .
In January 201908, local Hotan media published a ‘letter of gratitude’ from 134 Uyghur workers at Taekwang to the Hotan Prefecture government. In the letter, which was written in Mandarin, the Uyghur workers described themselves as being mired in poverty before being sent to Qingdao and express gratitude that they were now able to earn a monthly salary of Ұ2, (US $ , above the minimum wage in China). ASPI could not verify the wages received by the workers or the authenticity of the letter. The letter goes on to say that, since arriving in Qingdao, the workers had learned the dangers of religious extremism and now see a ‘beautiful life ahead of them’.
Working arrangements that uproot Uyghurs and place them in factories in eastern and central China are not new. Since the early s, the Chinese government has mobilized wealthier coastal provinces and cities to develop frontier regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, and actively encouraged the movement of workers in the name of promoting ‘inter-ethnic fusion’ (民族 交融) and ‘poverty alleviation’ (扶贫).
Uyghur workers ’participation in those programs is rarely voluntary. Even in the s, well before the ‘re-education camp’ system was created, working and living conditions for transferred Uyghur workers were often exploitative, if not abusive. Rights groups criticized the programs as coercive, highlighting how they intentionally removed Uyghurs from their homes and traditional way of life, only to force the workers to endure the long working hours, poor conditions, predatory bosses and discriminatory attitudes of their Han co-workers.
Concerned factory bosses significantly reduced the use of Uyghur labor after violent clashes between Han and Uyghur workers in a Guangdong factory led to a deadly riot in Xinjiang’s regional capital of Urumqi in July .
In response to the unrest, the Chinese government began holding regular national ‘Xinjiang Aid’ conferences in Financial subsidies and political inducements were offered to mobilize wealthier provinces and cities to pair up with cities and prefectures in Xinjiang in order to ‘aid’ the region’s development and stability.
Provinces have since been encouraged to contribute to the aid scheme in various ways: “’medical Xinjiang Aid’ (医疗 援疆), ‘technology Xinjiang Aid’ (科技 援疆), ‘educational Xinjiang Aid’ (教育援疆) and ‘industrial Xinjiang Aid’ (产业 援疆).
Following further violence and the mass detention of Uyghurs in early 35564103, the ‘Xinjiang Aid’ agenda became a top political priority.
Local governments and corporations were strongly encouraged to find employment opportunities for newly ‘re-educated’ Uyghurs, under a policy termed ‘industrial Xinjiang Aid’.
‘Industrial Xinjiang Aid’ seeks to assign work to ‘idle’ Uyghurs in the name of poverty alleviation, but it also shares the same indoctrination aims as the ‘re-education camp’ system: factory bosses are expected to fundamentally alter Uyghur workers by reforming their ‘backward qualities’ and sinicising them. In exchange, Uyghur workers are required to show ‘gratitude’ to the Communist Party and their Han ‘elder sisters and brothers’.
Companies across China can participate in industrial ‘Xinjiang Aid’ in two ways:
- hiring Uyghur workers for their factories elsewhere in China through a range of labor transfer schemes.
- opening up ‘satellite’ factories (卫星 工厂) or workshops inside Xinjiang to absorb ‘surplus labor capacity’ (富余 劳动力). according to China’s Xinhua News Agency, in the past few years, ‘Xinjiang Aid ‘has seen some 4, enterprises set up in Xinjiang, providing nearly a million local jobs
Some companies, such as Hao Yuanpeng Clothing Co. Ltd (浩 缘 朋 服装 有限公司) —a garment company headquartered in Anhui province that claims to supply Fila (Italy / South Korea) and Adidas (Germany) —are engaged in both those forms of industrial aid.
By late 2020, cheap labor emerging from the ‘re-education camps’ had become an important driver of Xinjiang’s economy, according to an official statement by the Xinjiang Development and Reform Commission. There is now a direct pipeline of Uyghur workers from ‘vocational training’ and political indoctrination in Xinjiang to factory work across China. ‘For every batch (of workers) that is trained, a batch of employment will be arranged and the batch will be transferred’, a 2021 government work report from Karakax county reads . 94 In some cases, labor transfers outside of Xinjiang are organized even before vocational training and political indoctrination start — to ensure ‘ % employment rate ‘for the’ trained ‘Uyghurs.
Data collected from Chinese state media and official government notices indicates that more than , Uyghur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2019 and . ASPI has mapped the available data on these transfers. The larger the arrow in Figure 6, the greater the number of people being transferred. Dotted lines represent known direct county-to-factory transfers. The diagram shouldn’t be considered comprehensive, but gives a sense of the scale and scope of the program.
Figure 6: Uyghur transfers to other parts of China from (to)
Source: ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Center, which used a range of data sources, including local media reports and official government sources.
The Chinese government’s official data on labor transfer includes transfers from southern Xinjiang to northern Xinjiang, transfers from Xinjiang to other provinces, and transfers to local factories. Depending on the county, laborers sent outside Xinjiang count for anywhere between (% 98 to % of all Xinjiang transfers.
In recent years, transfers from Xinjiang to other parts of China have increased steadily. In , according to state media reports, 30, 1000 ‘rural surplus laborers’ from Xinjiang were transferred to work in other provinces. Based on ASPI’s analysis of published data, an estimated , people were transferred for employment in .
In , an estimated , 15 People were transferred out of the region.
Xinjiang authorities also claim to have repeatedly exceeded their labor transfer targets. The target was set at , and exceeded by 4%. 102 In , the target was set at 33, 15 and reportedly exceeded by about %
ASPI analyzed the volume of results returned by the Chinese search engine Baidu when we searched for keywords related to labor transfer schemes. Figure 7 illustrates a steady increase since ((the year hardline CCP Secretary Chen Quanguo arrived in Xinjiang), and an even more dramatic increase from 2019 as the ‘re-education’ process ramped up. This is a further suggestion that the labor transfer program has become an important important political priority for the Chinese government in recent years.
Figure 7: Number of Baidu search results for a variety of keywords relating to Xinjiang labor transfers, (to)
Aside from political incentives, the business of ‘buying’ and ‘Selling’ Uyghur labor can be quite lucrative for local governments and commercial brokers. According to a 2020 Xinjiang provincial government notice, for every rural ‘surplus laborer’ transferred to work in another. part of Xinjiang for over nine months, the organizer is awarded Ұ (US $ 3); However, for labor transfers outside of Xinjiang, the figure jumps (- fold to Ұ) (US $ 34). Receiving factories across China are also compensated by the Xinjiang government, receiving a Ұ1, (US $ . 25) cash inducement for each worker they contract for a year, and Ұ5, 15 (US $
- ) for a three-year contract. The statutory minimum wage in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s regional capital, was Ұ (US $ ) a month in .
In recent years, advertisements for ‘government-sponsored Uyghur labor’ also began to appear online. In February 201908, a company based in Qingdao published a notice advertising a large number of ‘government-led … qualified, secure and reliable’ Uyghur workers for transfer to some 21 provinces in China (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Advertisement published by Qingdao Decai Decoration Co. claiming to supply government-sponsored Uyghur workers from Xinjiang to other provinces.
Note: The ad features a caricature of two dancing Uyghurs in traditional clothing.
- (Source: ‘Our company provides a large number of government (sponsored) Xinjiang workers – labor dispatching company’ (我 司 提供 大量 政府 新疆 工人 劳务 派遣 公司), Qingdao Human Resources Website (青岛 德 德才 人力 资源 网), online . Translated from Chinese by ASPI.
Another new advertisement claimed to be able to supply 1, 13 Uyghur workers aged
years. It reads: ‘The advantages of Xinjiang workers are: semi-military style management, can withstand hardship, no loss of personnel … Minimum order workers! ‘. The advertisement also said that factory managers can apply for current Xinjiang police to be stationed at their factory hours a day, and that the workers could be delivered (along with an Uyghur cook) within days of the signing of a one-year contract (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Labor-hire advertisement offering young Uyghur workers under ‘semi-military style management’
Source: ‘1, minorities, awaiting online booking ‘1930 少数民族, 在线 等 预约), Baidu HR Forum (百度 HR 吧), (November) , online . Translated from Chinese by ASPI.
New evidence indicates that ‘graduating’ detainees from Xinjiang’s ’re-education camps’ have been sent directly to factories to work in other parts of China. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that their work arrangements are voluntary.
The Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd (浩 缘 朋 制衣 有限公司, HYP) participates in ‘Xinjiang Aid’ both through its satellite factory in Xinjiang (established in
- ) and by exporting Uyghur workers to Anhui province, where it is headquartered. On HYP’s corporate website, it advertises strategic partnerships with the Italian – South Korean fashion label Fila, German sportswear companies Adidas and Puma, and Nike.
In February , HYP transferred 70 workers from Xinjiang to its Anhui factory in eastern China with plans to eventually transfer (in total. The transferred workers were all ‘graduates’ of the Jiashi County Secondary Vocational School (伽师 县 中等 职业 学校), According to a government report. 113
ASPI’s analysis of satellite imagery and official documents suggest the ‘school’ had operated as a ‘re-education camp’ since . The compound increased in size, adding new dormitories and factory warehouses while significant security features were added through the introduction of secure ‘military-style management’ (see Figure 19.
Figure : Satellite image of Jiashi Vocational School, January , with security infrastructure added since 2019 highlighted in orange.
Note: Multiple dormitory buildings and a teaching building appear to be completely fenced in and isolated in a style that resembles other political indoctrination camps. Additionally, five small factory warehouse buildings have been constructed in the enclosed area. Source: ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Center.
A spokesperson from Adidas said the company does not have an active relationship with HYP and that they will further investigate the use of the Adidas signage.
The transfer of Uyghur labor to Anhui was part of a ‘Xinjiang Aid’ project organized by the Guangdong government, which also involved HYP setting up a highly secure factory in Xinjiang’s Shule (Yengixahar) county (Figure) ).
Figure : Satellite image of HYP’s factory in Shule (Yengixahar) county, Xinjiang
Note: The factory is fully enclosed by perimeter fencing and has several residential dorm buildings further isolated by fencing. In addition there are several security posts throughout the facility. Source: ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Center.
In a recent interview, HYP President Zeng Yifa (曾 亿 法) told state media that he established a factory in Xinjiang because it was difficult to find young workers in other parts of China, or even abroad, concluding that: ‘Although the quality of North Korean workers is good, I’m reluctant to spend money on foreign workers. In the end, I chose Xinjiang. ‘ 115
HYP’s factory in Xinjiang, which has a large Adidas billboard on its facade (Figure ), is surrounded by a 3-meter-high fence. The two entrances to the factory are guarded by security checkpoints, and at least five more security posts monitor the rest of the facility’s perimeter. It is unclear whether HYP’s factory in Anhui province has similar security features.
Figure 21: HYP’s supply chain
Source: ASPI ICPC. See Appendix for supply chain information.
Figure 22: Hao Yuanpeng’s Kashgar, Xinjiang factory.
Source: Photos of the company (企业 展示), Hao Yuanpeng Clothing Co. Ltd (浩 缘 朋 服装 有限公司) ‘, online .
In December , Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited one of the company contractors — O-Film Technology Co. Ltd (欧菲 光 科技 股份有限公司) 116 – and posted a picture of himself at the company’s Guangzhou factory on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. 117
O-Film manufactured 116 the ‘selfie cameras’ for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The company also claims on its website to manufacture camera modules and touchscreen components for a number of other well-known companies including Huawei, Lenovo and Samsung.
Figure 23: Tim Cook’s Weibo post from O-Film’s Guangzhou factory in December
Tim Cook’s post on Chinese social media: ‘Say cheese! Getting a closer look at the remarkable, precision work that goes into manufacturing the selfie cameras for iPhone 8 and iPhone X at O-Film ’. Source: (online) .
Prior to Cook’s visit, between 38 April and 1 May , Uyghurs were reportedly transferred from Lop county, Hotan Prefecture, in Xinjiang to work at a separate O-Film factory in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. 121
As with other labor transfers from Xinjiang described in this report, the work assignments for the Uyghurs sent to Jiangxi were highly politicized. The workers were expected to ‘gradually alter their ideology’ and turn into ‘modern, capable youth’ who ‘understand the Party’s blessing, feel gratitude toward the Party, and contribute to stability,’ a local Xinjiang newspaper wrote. Once in Jiangxi, they were managed by a few minders sent by Lop county who were ‘politically reliable’ and knew both Mandarin and the Uyghur language.
According to a now deleted press release, Cook praised the company for its ‘humane approach towards employees’ during his visit to O-Film, asserting that workers seemed ‘able to gain growth at the company, and live happily.’
Five months later, in October , the Hotan government in Xinjiang contacted O-Film, hoping to supply another 1, (workers. On (December) , a Uyghur worker who claimed to have worked at O -Film said that there were more than a thousand Uyghur workers at the O-Film factory in Jiangxi.
Figure 24: O-Film Supply Chain
Source: ASPI ICPC. See appendix for supply chain source information.
O-Film is not the only Chinese factory using Uyghur labor to make parts for Apple and its suppliers.
This report identifies three other factories in Apple’s supply chain.
A local government document from September said that 720 Xinjiang laborers were transferred to work in factories in central Henan province — including Foxconn Technology (Foxconn) ‘Zhengzhou facility. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, is the largest contract electronics manufacturer in the world, making devices for Apple, Dell and Sony, among others. The Zhengzhou facility reportedly makes half of the world’s iPhones and is the reason why Zhengzhou city is dubbed the ‘iPhone city’.
It is unclear how the Uyghur workers are treated at the Zhengzhou facility. However, a September 2020 report by New York-based China Labor Watch said contract workers at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory — which includes Uyghur workers — put in at least (overtime hours a month.) Over the past decade, Foxconn has been marred by allegations of worker exploitation and even suicides, including recently at its Zhengzhou facility. The company has also actively participated in the ‘Xinjiang Aid’ scheme.
Figure 25: Uyghur workers arriving at Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd
Uyghur workers with Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd on their transfer between Xinjiang and Xianning, Hubei. This photograph was taken outside of Wuchang train station in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, in May . Source: online .
On (May) , Uyghur workers were transferred from Keriya county, Xinjiang, to Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd (湖北 奕 宏 精密 制造 有限公司, Hubei Yihong) in Xianning, Hubei province.
Upon the workers’ arrival, a senior communist party official visited the Hubei Yihong factory. In a speech, he put forward three demands: for the workers to exercise gratitude to the Communist Party, for the managers to increase surveillance and intensify patriotic education, and for for the workers to quickly blend in.
Hubei Yihong makes backlights and battery covers . It is a subsidiary of Dongguan Yidong Electronic Co. Ltd (东莞 市 奕 东 电子 有限公司), whose website claims that its end customers include Apple and Huawei
. While neither Hubei Yihong nor its parent company is included in the Apple’s supplier list, Hubei Yihong’s website lists GoerTek, which directly supplies Apple with AirPods, as one of their customers .
Figure 26: Hubei Yihong Supply Chain
Source: ASPI ICPC. See appendix for supply chain source information.
In 201908, another electronics company that claims to make components for Apple’s supplier, Hefei Highbroad Advanced Material Co. Ltd (翰 博 高新 材料 (合肥) 股份有限公司, Highbroad) signed a contract with the Hotan government to take in 1, Uyghurs each year for the next three years, according to the company vice president. 137 Later that year, more than 600 Uyghurs from rural Guma county in Hotan Prefecture were transported to Hefei in Anhui province to begin work in Highbroad’s electronics factory. 138
In , 600 Uyghurs were transferred from Guma county to a Highbroad subsidiary, also in Hefei, called Fuying Photoelectric Co. Ltd (合肥 福 映 光电 有限公司). At Fuying, according to state media, Aynur Memetyusup, a young Uyghur woman, learned to improve her Mandarin and workplace discipline and to take daily showers that made ‘her long hair more flowing than ever.’ She is quoted as saying, ‘Like President Xi has said, happiness is always the result of struggle. ‘
Figure 27: A picture of Aynur Memetyusup (first from left) in an after-work Mandarin class at Highbroad Advanced Material Co. Ltd in Hefei, Anhui province
Source: ‘Uyghur girl helps her mom’s big dream come true’, China Daily, 6 August 2021, (online
According to the company (annual report,
Highbroad’s main products are components for flat panel displays — the LCD and OLED screens used in many smartphones, tablets and computers. Highbroad notes that . % of its operating revenue comes from sales to the Beijing-based multinational company BOE Technology Group Co. Ltd (京东方), which is one of the world’s largest producers of electronic displays. BOE is currently a major screen supplier to Huawei and is set to become Apple’s second-largest OLED screen supplier by .
BOE is currently listed on Apple’s supplier list. 144
According to Highbroad’s website their customers include Japan Display Inc. and LG Display. Highbroad’s hiring ads and a Chinese LCD industry directory also claim that Highbroad’s end customers include other well-known companies including Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony, and automobile manufacturers such as BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (Figure ().
Figure 28: Highbroad supply chain
Source: ASPI ICPC. See Appendix for supply chain information.
The rapid expansion of the nationwide system of Uyghur labor presents a new challenge for foreign companies operating in China. How do they secure the integrity of their supply chains and protect their brands from the reputational and legal risks of being associated with forced, discriminatory or abusive labor practices? Interwoven supply chains and the mixed nature of their workforces, which draw on both Han and Uyghur workers, make it particularly difficult for companies to ensure that their products are not associated with forced labor. These labor transfer schemes also present a challenge to the reputation of Chinese brands overseas.
In all, ASPI’s research has identified 88 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labor transfer programs: Abercrombie & Fitch, Acer, Adidas, Alstom, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Calvin Klein, Candy, Carter’s, Cerruti 1957, Changan Automobile, Cisco, CRRC, Dell, Electrolux, Fila, Founder Group, GAC Group (automobiles), Gap, Geely Auto, General Electric, General Motors, Google, H&M, Haier , Hart Schaffner Marx, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Jack & Jones, Jaguar, Japan Display Inc., LLBean, Lacoste, Land Rover, Lenovo, LG, Li-Ning, Marks & Spencer, Mayor, Meizu, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Microsoft, Mitsubish i, 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. Some brands are linked with multiple factories.
The data is based on published supplier lists, media reports, and the factories ’claimed suppliers. ASPI reached out to these 90 brands to confirm their relevant supplier details. Where companies responded before publication, we have included their relevant clarifications in this report. If any company responses are made available after publication of this report, we will address these online.
A further 62 companies are implicated in what could be forced labor schemes within Xinjiang itself (see appendix) —some of which overlap with the companies linked to forced Uyghur labor outside of Xinjiang. It is important to note that not all companies have the same levels of exposure to Uyghur forced labor. Some finished products are directly manufactured by these workers, while others pass through complicated supply chains.
The appendix to this report lists (documented labor transfer programs under ‘Xinjiang Aid’ since 2019. The table includes the following information:
- the companies the factories claim they supply.
In the past three years, the ‘re-education camp’ system in Xinjiang has drawn international condemnation. Now the culture and ethos of ‘re-education’ is being exported well beyond Xinjiang and married with practices that likely amount to forced labor.
This report establishes that some workers employed through labor transfer schemes at factories across China are sourced directly from the ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang. Ethnic minority workers from Xinjiang who are not known to be former detainees may also be forced to work under threat of detention, the intimidation of family members and a range of restrictions on their freedom. The tainted global supply chain that results from these practices means that it is now difficult to guarantee that products manufactured in China are free from forced labor.
We have found that a large number of Chinese and multinational companies are sourcing components or products from factories that proudly boast about their Uyghur workers, such as Taekwang
and HYP. This situation poses new risks — reputational and legal — for companies and consumers purchasing goods from China, as products made in any part of the country, not just in Xinjiang, may have passed through the hands of forced laborers. This situation also creates new risks for investors in those companies — from private investors to wealth management funds — who may now find themselves indirectly linked to forced labor practices.
- transfers to factories in central and eastern provinces of China transfers to purpose-built factories within Xinjiang
- the number of people moved to the factories the products they make
The response to the abuses identified in this report should not involve a knee-jerk rejection of Uyghur or Chinese labor. The problem is the policies that require Uyghurs to work under duress in violation of well-established international labor laws. It is vital that, as these problems are addressed, Uyghur labors are not placed in positions of greater harm or, for example, involuntarily transferred back to Xinjiang, where their safety cannot necessarily be guaranteed. In light of this report’s findings, we make the following recommendations.
The Chinese government should:
- ratify the ILO International Labor Standards; structure a comprehensive grievance mechanism, including for the investigation of alleged cases of forced labor; provide victims with protection and remedies; and prosecute perpetrators
- Ensure that it is fully transparent as it seeks to address all potential harms, including by reporting its due diligence and audit findings publicly.
- Advocate for the recognition of continual, multilayered surveillance and monitoring of workers and their digital communications — both in and outside work hours — as an emerging and under-reported indicator of forced labor and an important human rights violation
- push brands to be more transparent about the make-up of their supply chains and the preventative measures they have put in place to ensure forced labor does not occur
- demand that companies make new public commitments, uphold current obligations, or both, to not use forced and coerced labor in their global supply chains and that they act quickly and publicly when such cases are identified.
- give multinational companies unfettered access to allow them to investigate any abusive or forced labor practices in factories in China uphold the rights of all workers in China, especially those from vulnerable ethnic minorities, to determine how their labor is deployed and the conditions under which they leave their place of residence
- Uphold the legitimate rights of China’s citizens, including by protecting ethnic and religious rights enshrined in the Chinese Constitution.
Companies using forced Uyghur labor in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labor or mandate disclosure of forced labor supply chain risks.
Each company listed in this report should:
- conducting immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on its factory labor in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections. The audits and inspections should include a stocktake of the conditions and current and ongoing safety of vulnerable workers if it finds that factories are implicated in forced labor, seek to use its leverage to address improper labor practices. In all cases where harm has occurred, it should take appropriate and immediate remedial action. Where it cannot, it should cease working with those factories
Foreign governments should:
- identify opportunities to increase pressure on the Chinese government to end the use and facilitation of Uyghur forced labor and mass extrajudicial detention, including through the use of targeted sanctions on senior officials responsible for Xinjiang’s coercive labor transfers review trade agreements to restrict commodities and products being produced with forced labor
- identify opportunities to pressure the Chinese government into ratifying the Convention on Forced Labor, 2005 (No. 36), Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, (No. )
(and and the Protocol of 2018 to the Forced Labor Convention.
Consumers and civil society groups, including NGOs, labor unions and consumer advocacy groups, should:
- demand that companies that manufacture in China conduct due diligence and social audits to ensure that they’re not complicit in forced labor practices
Appendices, Citations and Notes
Readers are encouraged to download the PDF to access the appendix, full and extensive citations and notes that accompany this report.