(Minghui.org) Because of forced labor by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province, several major brands, including H&M, Nike, Adidas, and Burberry, have expressed concerns over cotton produced in the region.
Instead of addressing these concerns with transparency and respect for human rights, the CCP bluntly criticized these businesses, threatening to boycott their products. Western firms are again facing a crossroads of safeguarding their principles or yielding to the totalitarian regime.
This incident is new, but the existence of slave labor in China and the tactics by the CCP to cover it up have existed for at least two decades. In this article, we review the slave labor imposed on Falun Gong practitioners since July 1999 when the CCP began to persecute the mind-body spiritual discipline also known as Falun Dafa.
Before the collapse of the forced labor camp system in China in 2013, there were over 300 labor camps in China. More than 95% of people held in the labor camps were Falun Gong practitioners. Furthermore, over 100,000 practitioners are kept in about 700 prisons in the country.
Nearly all detained practitioners at these facilities were forced to do slave labor. The products include all kinds of daily articles, such as toothpicks, chopsticks, medical cotton swabs, injection bags, food bags, cell phone cases, soccer balls, footballs, stamp albums, candy, moon cakes, car mats, winter coats, embroidery, leather bags, ornaments, and crafts,
According to reports from Minghui, detained Falun Gong practitioners, from 16-year-old to 70-year-old, were forced to work somewhere between 12 and 19 hours a day. When they failed to finish their tasks on time, they had to work overtime to catch up.
Ms. Liu Youqiing, a practitioner in her 50s, was forced to work at Wuhan Women’s Prison. From morning to evening, she was forced to sit on a small stool unraveling fabric. The workload was heavy and she could not finish even by midnight. As punishment, the guards forced her to stand about three steps away from a wall and lean against the wall with only her head as torture. She unraveled fabric like this for 18 days and the guards did not let her sleep in bed even for one day.
A lot of food products were actually made with slave labor. When one practitioner detained at Yunnan Women’s Labor Camp refused to process cookies, the guards asked why. She said the food produced did not meet even the most basic sanitary requirement. “Look at the bags of flour that are stacked on the ground with machines full of dust. The toilets have feces and urine all over, and one could barely go in. After using the bathroom, there are no towels to dry the hands,” she said, “If we do not want to eat these cookies ourselves, why do we want to cheat others? I am a Falun Gong practitioner following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I cannot do that.”
It is well known that Chinese prisons produce goods for exportation. There is hardly any cost and the labor is free. There have been reports that towels used for cleaning in funeral homes were transported to prisons to produce gloves.
According to an early report from Minghui, labor camps also sold and bought detainees to finish the work load. Such human trafficking was the worst before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In the name of the Olympics, the CCP officials sold practitioners detained in Beijing to Inner Mongolia, Masanjia Labor Camp in Liaoning Province, and labor camps in Hubei Province. Each detainee’s price was about 800 to 1,000 yuan (or $120 to $150).
Ms. Wang Yuhong from Beijing was sold to Hubei Women’s Labor Camp on July 9, 2008. At the labor camp, several guards tied her up to a chair and stuffed her mouth with a wooden cork. They then pushed a thick rubber tube into her nose and pulled it out afterwards. They tortured her in this way many times in order to force her to do the slave labor.
The schedule was from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with less than 20 minutes of lunch time in between. There was no compensation, but anyone who failed to finish assignments could be forced to stand for a long time and face beatings and humiliation. “We got up earlier than a rooster and ate worse than a pig,” described a detainee of her experience at Hubei Women’s Labor Camp.
The labor camp officials across the country also worked closely with other government agencies. Shandong Province Second Labor Camp, for example, often contacted police to detain more practitioners for the labor work. Some people were not practitioners, but police arrested them anyway and sold them to the labor camp at 800 yuan per person.
According to a report published by Minghui in 2013, among the 3,653 death cases of Falun Gong practitioners at the time, 110 of them died directly due to heavy workloads from forced labor. This shows the prisons and labor camps in China have been essentially functioning as slave labor factories.
Launched by former CCP leader Jiang Zemin in 1999, the persecution against Falun Gong is comprehensive, systematic, and brutal. To force practitioners to give up their faith in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, the authorities have resorted to various means, including both brutal torture and forced brainwashing. Very often slave labor has become part of the tactic to weaken practitioners' willpower.
Compared to other types of abuse, slave labor is relatively invisible. On the one hand, officials could make profits. On the other hand, they could achieve the goal of brainwashing and forcing practitioners to give up their belief, as required by the 610 Office. As a result, the guards often ordered practitioners to work hard during the day, and forced them to write statements to renounce their belief at night. Exhausted from long hours of work, practitioners are more vulnerable at night and more likely to succumb to pressure from the brainwashing.
Practitioners who refused to perform slave labor were often met with severe torture. Ms. Zhu Jinzhong, a practitioner from Shunyi District in Beijing, was sent to Tumuji Labor Camp, Inner Mongolia. When protesting against the slave labor, she was brutally tortured. Police beat her with rubber batons, kicked her, and pulled her hair. Guards also handcuffed her hands behind her back, sealed her mouth, and left her under the burning sun for a long time. Ms. Zhu was badly wounded and her body weight dropped from 80 kilos (about 170 lb) to 50 kilos (or 110 lb).
In addition to free labor, officials also implemented a point system based on job performance. Those who had low points would see their terms extended, which meant that those who opposed the labor work would be detained with longer terms.
Looking back at its history in the past few decades, the CCP’s primary goal is to seize power, control people, and advance the communist ideology. To that end, it launched numerous political movements to target selected groups and to shift attention from its countless problems.
The same happened this time with the slave labor issue in Xinjiang. Instead of addressing the human rights condition, the CCP bluntly criticized those businesses, threatening to boycott the products. In the meantime, it manipulated the propaganda domestically to mislead the fervor of patriotism and stir up hatred. “The Chinese people do not allow foreign companies to eat Chinese food and smash Chinese bowls,” said a China’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson recently.
It is ironic that the CCP officials always put the Party’s interest before people’s needs, but cite people’s interest when defending its totalitarian rule. The reality is, the foreign firms did not eat Chinese food (it is a business partnership), nor does it intend to harm Chinese people. In fact, Western firms just want to safeguard Chinese people’s lawful, basic, and universal human rights after they were deprived by the CCP.
If the CCP does boycott foreign goods and stop exporting cotton, once again it is the Chinese people who will suffer. According to data from the General Administration of Customs, China’s export was 17.93 trillion yuan in 2020 and 7.4% of it comes from textile. Yu from Xinjiang Agricultural University said China is the second largest cotton exporting nation in the world. Were the CCP to retaliate by rejecting Western brands, it would affect cotton exports and in the end harm more Chinese people.
Similar to countless incidents in history, whoever collaborates with the CCP will lose in the end, be they Chinese people or foreign firms. Only by rejecting the CCP is there a path for a brighter future.