US Sen. Marsha Blackburn has warned that China’s efforts to clamp down on its Uighur population is a grim “preview” of its intent worldwide as a fellow lawmaker announced legislation Monday specifically calling out Beijing for forced labour.
“The Chinese Government is putting blind folded Uyghurs with shaven heads onto trains going to detention camps. All because Uyghurs are Muslim. This is eerily familiar,” she said on Twitter, using an alternative spelling for Uighur.
“The Chinese surveillance state being used to send Muslim Uyghurs to concentration camps is a preview of the electronic tyranny they one day seek to impose on the entire world,” the Republican of Tennessee added.
Her comments came after a video surfaced of prisoners shackled in chains being forced onto trains in the autonomous Xinjiang region in northwestern China, home to the Uighur minority, in what looked like a prisoner transfer.
The detainees had their heads completely shaven and were sitting in rows wearing blue-and-yellow uniforms before being taken away by police. Human rights groups and Western governments have been vocal in condemning China’s widespread abuses against the Uighurs.
The condemnations have focused on what China calls re-education camps, as well as allegations of mass, systemic forced sterilization. The camps, in particular, have been sharply criticized over allegations that they are fronts for forced labour and political indoctrination.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, announced Monday he is introducing legislation that mandates corporations audit their supply chains to ensure they are free of slave labour. He pointed specifically to the camps, saying at least 80 international firms “have been tied to forced Uighur labour in China.”
Those include Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lenovo, and Samsung, he said.
“If corporate America wants to be the face of social change today, they should have to certify they are completely slave-free,” said Hawley. “If they refuse to do so, they should pay the price. That’s social responsibility.”
The Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.
By Michael Hernandez