China’s Uyghur Population Control Begs The Question: Why Are We Doing Business In Xinjiang?

January 11, 2021

By Kenneth Rapoza, CPA Industry Analyst

Beijing is undertaking a form of population control in Xinjiang. This is not a country of diversity and inclusion and equity economics. At the very least, the treatment of Uyghur Muslims should force Customs and Border Protection to strongly consider a regional ban on US supply chains tied to Xinjiang.

Days after 2020 drew to its bitter end, China started the new year with a message from its Embassy in Washington. On their Twitter account, they said that since Beijing began its anti-terrorism campaign centered on Muslim minorities in the province of Xinjiang, the “minds of Uyghur women (have been) emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.”

China used the language affiliated in the US with freedom, fairness and personal choice to promote a policy that is anything but. We now know that some of this reproductive health action is not voluntary.

Uyghurs are becoming a majority in the fossil fuels rich Xinjiang province. That means the dominant Hans are the minority. To change that, Beijing has used its American-style fight against terrorism to take out the Uyghur populatin, housing hundreds of thousands of them, mostly men, in detention centers referred to as re-education centers. The crackdowns began in earnest in 2016. After years of Han's targeted the Uyghur minorities, Xinjiang has now turned into a police state for them. 

In 2020, we learned that numerous companies along the retail apparel and even low-cost laptop supply chain were using Uyghur prison labor to harvest cotton or solder mother boards into laptops. Those companies have been part of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Withhold Release Order program, which captures or bans products from companies deemed to be working with forced labor.

CPA is advocating for a regional ban on all supply chains sourcing from Xinjiang as it is too hard to decipher which company is benefiting from the Xinjiang Uyghur policies, and which are unwilling participants. Volkswagen has an assembly line there but says they don't use forced labor, but its CEO was unable to confirm that its regional supply chain did not, according to the BBC.

China's Forced Population Control

In the summer, the AP noted that the Uyghur population in Xinjiang was in decline do to birth control and sterilization policies. 

In October, The Economist magazine wrote a feature about children left behind after their parents were sent to the Chinese equivalent of old Soviet gulags. 

Yet, here is a region of the China landmass where Disney notoriously set up to shoot scenes from its live action movie Mulan. Of all the places in China, they picked Xinjiang, giving Beijing a chance to tell the US that if they were doing such bad things there, Disney would not have gone.

American corporations should be held accountable for this not by being shamed on social media or in the press, a bee sting at best; but instead by being outright banned from doing business there at all if we are to be taken seriously about human rights and fair trade. China clearly does not think the US has any moral high ground.

A study by the Jamestown Foundation, published in July, stated that the veracity and scale of these anecdotal accounts published in the press last year were confirmed by Chinese government documents. Key findings in the Jamestown report include:

  • Natural population growth in Xinjiang’s minority regions declined dramatically since 2017. Growth rates fell by 84 percent in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in several minority regions in 2019. For 2020, one Uyghur region set a near-zero birth rate. This is population control, at best.
  • Government documents bluntly mandate that “birth control violations are punishable by extrajudicial internment.” Meaning, violators go to jail for not complying with forced birth control or sterilization.
  • Documents reveal a targeted campaign of promoting “free” birth prevention surgeries and services in southern Xinjiang’s rural minority regions starting in 2019, with two counties publishing targets for sterilizing up to 34 percent of all rural females of reproductive age in 2019 alone. This project had sufficient funding for performing hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation sterilization procedures in 2019 and 2020, with at least one region receiving additional government funding from Beijing.
  • By 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age in the rural southern four minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries (IUDs or sterilizations). In 2018, 80 percent of all net added IUD placements in China (calculated as placements minus removals) were performed in Xinjiang (the region only makes up 1.8 percent of the nation’s population).
  • Between 2015 and 2018, about 860,000 ethnic Han residents left Xinjiang, while up to 2 million new residents were added to Xinjiang’s Han majority regions. These figures raise concerns that Beijing is doubling down on a policy of Han settler colonialism. There is no celebration of diversity and inclusion in China.

Jamestown concluded that these findings were evidence that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, namely that of Section D of Article II: “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the (targeted) group” (United Nations, December 9, 1948).

The US government is aware of this, at least through open source intelligence. Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the State Department, reported in August that forced abortions were also taking place, especially if a Uyghur was pregnant within a three year period.

We recognize that forced population control is not part of the CBP’s policy to stop trade, but the US has laws against trading with countries that have humanitarian abuses or forced labor.

Section 307 of the 1930 Trade Act bans commerce with forced labor actors. In the Generalized System of Preferences, which gives duty-free treatment to countries, there is a rule that allows for countries to lose those tariff waivers for violating certain labor rights outlined by the International Labor Organization. The World Trade Organization, of which China has been a member for 20 years, has a "public morals" exception allowing for tariffs against member states. Although it hasn't been tested too much, it should certainly work in authorizing countries to ban supply chain goods made by forced labor. 

“Trade sanctions and decoupling should be imposed,” says CPA chief executive Michael Stumo. “If the Democrats want a just, moral, humanitarian economy, we can’t trade with businesses in Xinjiang.”



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