A number of global brands have been advised to conduct human rights due diligence on their factories in China, as a new report suggests conditions in some resemble forced labour.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute claims that the Chinese government has carried out a mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to factories across the country, many of them working in the supply chains of 83 global brands.

The factories supply brands across a wide spectrum – tech, clothing and automotive – and include Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.

It is estimated that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were sent to factories between 2017 and 2019, some being transferred directly from detention camps. The ASPI says the numbers are conservative and the real figure is probably far higher.

“In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances,” according to the report, which says overall conditions “strongly suggest forced labour”.

China has been criticised internationally for its reported network of “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, a majority Muslim region in the far northwest of the country. Since 2017, more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Turkic Muslim minorities are thought to have entered the camps.

ASPI researchers used open-source documents, media reports and satellite images to pinpoint 27 factories in nine provinces that they say have used workers sent from re-education camps in Xinjiang.

“Companies using forced Uyghur labour in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labour or mandate disclosure of forced labour supply chain risks”, says the report, entitled Uyghurs for sale.

“The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections,” the authors state. 

Sourced from ASPI