The world’s fashion brands need to confront—and abandon—their complicity with human-rights atrocities being perpetuated against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China, a coalition of more than 180 human-rights groups announced Thursday.
With Xinjiang producing more than 80 percent of Chinese cotton, according to Washington D.C’s Center for Strategic & International Studies, “virtually” the entire apparel industry is tainted with a vast network of forced labor that has become a key facet of the Chinese government’s strategy to control and repress up to 1.8 million Turkic Muslims, the coalition said, urging brands, governments and international bodies to offer more than empty declarations.
“To end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim peoples by the Chinese government, brands must ensure their supply chains are not linked to the atrocities against these people,” Jasmine O’Connor, CEO of Anti-Slavery International, said in a statement. “The only way brands can ensure they are not profiting from the exploitation is by exiting the region and ending relationships with suppliers propping up this Chinese government system.”
Critics have described the manifold abuses, which include arbitrary detention, torture, involuntary separation of families, compulsory sterilization of women and coercive “reeducation” in mass incarceration camps on a scale unseen since the Holocaust, as tantamount to cultural genocide.