Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Forced Uyghur labour in China: Getting the World attention now

This article is by

Share this article

Mihrigul Tursun, former detainee at Uyghur mass internment camps in China, testifying in Washington | Source:    D.A. Peterson via Wikimedia

Since 2017 nearly a million ethnic minorities, mostly Uyghur Muslims from the far Western region of the Xinjiang province of China, have been put in  detention centres. The detainees in these camps are forced to renounce their faith and, in some instances, have been subjected to torture.

The Chinese government has termed the program as a combat against “religious extremism” even as it detains members of ethnic minorities from the region and sends them to the so-called “re-education camps”. The experts however believe that these people have been thrust into a systematic program of cultural genocide.

This campaign now appears to be proceeding towards a new direction wherein the Uyghur detainees are being shipped across the country for forced labour in factories.

As per the government officials, these “trainees” have all “graduated” and are being given employment in the form of factory labour to lead a better life. While China has made this their sole criteria to defend the program, there is mounting evidence that suggests that the Uyghurs are being subjected to forced labour and are not allowed to visit their families in Xinjiang.

According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Uyghurs have been moved under a labour scheme known as Xinjiang aid to factories across the country straight from the detention centers. Many of these factories are a part of the supply chain network for well-renowned brands such as Apple, Nike, and Dell.

At the factories the workers are forced to live in separate rooms and are required to take Mandarin lessons under heavy surveillance. They are not allowed to leave their jobs and go back to their families in Xinjiang either.

John Oliver, host of popular US TV show “Last Week Tonight” recently aired an episode wherein he talked about the Uyghurs. “If this is the first time that you’re hearing about an estimated million people who’ve been held in detention camps – mostly Uighurs but also Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities – you are not alone. And it’s probably because China has done its level best to keep this story from getting out,” says Oliver.

John Oliver further said, “While there is clearly nothing new about horrific practices being hidden deep within the supply chain of global capitalism, what is happening to the Uighurs is particularly appalling”.

Despite China’s attempts at keeping the entire crackdown private, more and more horrifying details have come out in the open about the atrocities meted out to the Uyghurs via testimonies from former detainees.

This has led to an increased pressure on China as well as the big brands utilizing the Chinese supply chain network, to cut ties with factories where human rights are being violated under this Uyghur crackdown.

The US has restricted 11 Chinese companies from buying American goods due to claims of them being linked to the Xinjiang region. A coalition of over 180 organizations also called out dozens of clothing brands and retailers for links to the Xinjiang crackdown and forced Uyghur labour.

While some companies like PVH, the owner of brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger are working on reducing their presence in the Xinjiang region’s supply chain network others like Big W, a discount department store chain operated by Australia's Woolworths group acknowledged that some of their products might be unintentionally coming from the regions of Xinjiang province.

Companies like Nike, Puma, and Adidas have however continued to deny allegations of links to factories with forced Uyghur labour completely. In their statement Nike said, "We have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region."

With the increasing spotlight on the Chinese government’s repressive activities,  international pressure is increasing on the business groups which depend on China for supply change, to come clean on any link of their vendors with Uyghur forced labour. There might be some hope, even if very little, for the plight of the Chinese Uyghurs after all.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

Read More