In China, the government forces ethnic minorities to work in detention camps sewing clothing that is imported to at least one American sportswear company.
There are a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region of China, with an estimated one million detainees who are allegedly indoctrinated politically and forced to give up their language and religion. In the internment camps, the Chinese government is forcing Kazakhs, Uighurs and other minorities, most of whom are Muslims, to receive “vocational training” and work for little to no pay. Now news has come out from an Associated Press investigation that the detainees are making sportswear for at least one company in the U.S.
According to Chinese authorities, the internment camps are part of a plan to eliminate poverty and bring minorities into “a modern civilized” world. They affirm that the people in the camps have signed paperwork agreeing to receive free vocational training. However, others accuse China of using “vocational training” as an excuse and cover for the illegal detainment of an unwanted minority.
Hetian Taida Apparel and Badger Sportswear Sell Clothing Made in Camps
Hetian Taida Apparel, a factory inside one of the internment camps, has been sending ongoing shipments of clothing to Badger Sportswear in Statesville, North Carolina. A leading sports clothing supplier, Badger ships the sportswear to sports teams and college campuses across the U.S. The Associated Press has been tracking Hetian Taida’s recent shipments.
Wu Hongbo, Hetian Taida’s chairman, told the AP on the phone: “We’re making our contribution to eradicating poverty.” Wu confirmed that the company provides “employment” to the detainees who work in the factory inside the compound.
Badger’s website claims it has a sourcing policy that “prohibits business partners from engaging in forced labor, including prison, bonded, indentured, and other forms of forced labor.”
Badger CEO John Anton responded to the news by saying the company would use another source for sportswear while it investigates the claims of forced labor. The U.S. government also said on Tuesday that it was looking into the forced labor reports.
Reports From Inside China’s Internment Camps
The Associated Press interviewed at least a dozen people who had been in a camp or had a friend in a camp who all said they were forced to work and given no choice.
In one case the AP heard about, one day in February, a man from Kazakhstan disappeared during a visit to China. His wife Mainur Medetbek later learned that he was taken to a labor camp. Although he had been making a living as a handyman, he is now forced to work in a clothing factory in the labor camp, allowed to leave every other Saturday to visit his family for one night.
“I never asked the government to find work for my husband,” Medetbek said. “They say it’s a factory, but it’s an excuse for detention. They don’t have freedom, there’s no time for him to talk with me. They say they found a job for him. I think it’s a concentration camp.”
Although Medetbek is uncertain whether her husband earns anything, Medetbek learned from a neighbor one woman in the camp makes about 600 yuan ($87) per month, far less than what Medetbek’s husband once made and less than half of the local minimum wage. Since her husband’s detention, Medetbek doesn’t have dependable income for her family; she has even considered suicide.
In another case the AP discovered, a Uighur in Washington, D.C., Rushan Abbas has a sister detained in a labor camp. Her sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, is in a “vocational center.” Abbas is unclear whether or not her sister is forced to work.
“American companies importing from those places should know those products are made by people being treated like slaves,” Rushan Abbas said. “What are they going to do, train a doctor to be a seamstress?”
One person who prefers to remain unnamed gave the AP firsthand knowledge of the conditions of the detainees in one county and figures that 10 to 20 percent of the people in the internment camps are forced to work in factories. Many earn only a tenth of what they previously earned. Some even work for nothing.
Another person named Elyar, who prefers to go by his first name, spent a month in detention last year. He said that young people in the camp went every morning to work in a cement factory and carpentry without pay.
“The camp didn’t pay any money, not a single cent,” Elyar said. “Even for necessities, such as things to shower with or sleep at night, they would call our families outside to get them to pay for it.”
“They Were Brainwashing Me”
Kairat Samarkan, a Kazakh citizen, said, “They didn’t teach me anything. They were brainwashing me, trying to make us believe how great China is, how powerful it is, how developed its economy is.” Samarkan stated that after he tried to kill himself, he was tortured with a “metal contraption that contorts your body” before his release in February.
Earlier this year, other detainees told the AP about the conditions in these camps. They told stories of solitary confinement and other punishments for refusing to recite political songs and phrases.
According to the US and the United Nations, forced labor is a form of modern slavery, and the US forbids importing any items enslaved people make.
On Monday, Dec. 17, Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Trump Administration to prohibit imports made in Chinese detention camps. “Not only is the Chinese government detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims, forcing them to revoke their faith and profess loyalty to the Communist Party, they are now profiting from their labor,” said Smith. “US consumers should not be buying and US businesses should not [be] importing goods made in modern-day concentration camps.”
UN Has Credible Information Millions Forced Into Internment Camps
Last August, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination announced it had “credible information” that close to two million people have been forced into camps for political indoctrination in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China.
As Citizen Truth previously reported, adding to the humanitarian concern are reports of China building new crematoriums in the region, dismantling mosques, building a database of Uighurs living in China and abroad, and reports that China has installed a massive surveillance system and even conducts five-day homestays in Uighur homes.