Uighur people from Xinjiang working in other parts of China are subject to “political” checks and work under strict “half-military” style management, according to new evidence discovered by Sky News.
The Xinjiang government runs an official “labour transfer programme”, according to its 2019 Five Year Plan, “so as to provide more employment opportunities for the surplus rural labour force.”
Workers are “transferred to employment” in other provinces of China.
A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated that at least 80,000 Uighur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019, although it said the actual figure was likely to be far higher.
Human rights groups have warned that such strict controls could amount to forced labour.
The Chinese government has previously described such claims as “the lie of the century”. It did not respond to our request for comment on this story.
Facilitating labour transfers relies on a network of private agents.
On Chinese websites, there are dozens of postings advertising Uighur labour, in batches of 50 to 100 workers.
Baidu, the company hosting the job postings, did not respond to a request for comment.
Those adverts suggest tight political and social controls. One states that the “security of workers will be guaranteed by the government”.
We contacted numbers left on the labour adverts.
One agent told us that workers from Xinjiang needed to be “examined politically” before they could be transferred.
The local government of the receiving province would also do a “political examination”.
All workers would be accompanied by “supervisors”, the agent said, and “under half-military management”.
Another said that without local government approval, workers could not be arranged because “the ethnic minority issue is a severe problem”.
A third said the salary of the “supervisors” was paid by the Personnel Bureau of the Xinjiang government.
State media often celebrates the working conditions of Uighur workers in other parts of China.
One local news video describes 200 Uighur workers at a factory in Shandong, a coastal province in east China, saying: “Supported by all relevant government departments, the company develops well.
“They will continue creating a harmonious work environment for our Uighur compatriots.”
The owner of the factory, a seafood processing plant, said that all the Uighur workers had returned home to Xinjiang because of the pandemic and that reports of forced labour was “nonsense”.
He said that workers went there because they chose to, earned at least £300 per month, and had air conditioners in their on-site dormitories.
Those dormitories were monitored by CCTV in a front office which also contained riot control gear.
If workers wished to leave the factory, the owner told us, the company would take them in two buses.
Twelve police officers and Communist Party officials then arrived.
They questioned us for two hours, before ordering us to leave town.
At another seafood processing factory in the same province, which until recently had a UK subsidiary, according to Companies House filings, a manager waiting at the entrance said there were no Uighur workers, nor had there been in the several years he had worked there.
But an article on the company’s own website, posted on 18 March 2020, shows Uighur workers arriving from Xinjiang.
The accompanying announcement says that their arrival will help alleviate poverty and the “integration of the national family”.
The post has since been deleted.