Report of Forced Labor Has Automakers on the Defensive

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
report of forced labor has automakers on the defensive

In a report that harkens back to the grim days of World War 2-era Germany, several automakers are accused of benefiting from forced labor.

An Australian think tank claims upwards of 80,000 Uighurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in northwest China, have been transported from state-run re-education and internment camps to the factories of Chinese suppliers. Among the companies said to benefit from the forced labor are Apple, Sony, Nike, Volkswagen, BMW, and General Motors.

The report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) details the recent “graduation” of many Uighurs from the camps. Some 1.5 million members of the Muslim minority are believed to be housed in camps in the remote Xinjiang region — facilities China claims are necessary to combat religious extremism and foster societal integration. Most outside observers call them indoctrination facilities.

“The ‘re-education’ campaign appears to be entering a new phase, as government officials now claim that all ‘trainees’ have ‘graduated.'” the report reads. “There is mounting evidence that many Uyghurs are now being forced to work in factories within Xinjiang. This report reveals that Chinese factories outside Xinjiang are also sourcing Uyghur workers under a revived, exploitative government-led labour transfer scheme. Some factories appear to be using Uyghur workers sent directly from ‘re-education camps.'”

ASPI claims that, since 2017, 80,000 or more Uyghur workers were sent from the camps to 27 factories — supplying 83 brands — under a state program called “Xinjiang Aid.”

While the government calls the practice “vocational training,” ASPI claims, “It is extremely difficult for Uyghurs to refuse or escape these work assignments, which are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination both inside and outside of Xinjiang. In addition to constant surveillance, the threat of arbitrary detention hangs over minority citizens who refuse their government-sponsored work assignments.”

Local governments and brokers are reportedly paid a price per head to take on the new labor.

“In the first case study, a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for US company Nike is equipped with watchtowers, barbed-wire fences and police guard boxes.”

By all reports, a community college work placement this ain’t.

In addition to the automakers mentioned above, Mercedes-Benz, Geely Auto, MG, and Mitsubishi are listed as using suppliers “employing” Uyghur labor. Geely, BAIC Motor, and General Motors have ties to O-Film Technology CO. LTD, a manufacturer of camera modules and touchscreen components. Highbroad Advanced Material Co. LTD claims VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar Land Rover as customers for its backlight modules and LCD components.

China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the claims, calling the report a “smear” and a product of U.S.-led anti-China propaganda.

Volkswagen was quick to reject the claim that it benefits from forced labor. The automaker, which sold more than 3.1 million vehicles in the country in 2019, told media that none of the companies listed in the report is a direct supplier.

From German newspaper Deutsche Welle:

When asked about the concerns raised in the report, Volkswagen told news agencies that none of the listed companies is currently a direct supplier. In a statement, the German automaker said it holds “direct authority” in all areas of its business and “respects minorities, employee representation and social and labor standards.”

[Image: Xujun/Shutterstock]

Join the conversation
3 of 21 comments
  • Ralahamy Ralahamy on Mar 02, 2020

    Life long Apple user, but increasingly disillusioned by Tim Cooks hypocrisy in using forced labour in China while promoting victimhood culture in the US.

    • TS020 TS020 on Mar 03, 2020

      If you're going to go Android make sure to sideload Blokada and Youtube Vanced as well; you'll wonder why you ever stuck with iOS once you do that.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Mar 03, 2020

    And what, US prisoners in jail don't work for private corporations? Making b*gger all? People in US glass houses love to throw bricks.

  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.