Chinese companies are using Uighur slave labor to produce personal protective equipment that is exported to the United States and other countries, The New York Times reports.
Some Chinese companies have used Uighur labor through a “contentious government-sponsored program that experts say often puts people to work against their will,” according to the report.
Some are part of a program that sends Uighurs and other ethnic minorities into factory jobs.
Some PPE exported:
With the rise in demand for PPE, the number of companies producing medical grade equipment has grown from four to 51. At least 17 of these companies are participating in the labor program.
Though the companies primarily make equipment for domestic use, several companies that use Uighur labor export materials around the world.
The Times tracked one shipment from a factory where more than 100 Uighur workers had been sent to a medical supply company in Georgia.
Workers face quotas:
Workers in the program face penalties if they refuse to cooperate, meaning their participation is mandatory even if involuntary.
There are also quotas on the number of workers.
“There are these coercive quotas that cause people to be put into factory work when they don’t want to be,” Amy Lehr, the director of the Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Times. “And that could be considered forced labor under international law.”