Coercive Labor and Forced Displacement in Xinjiang’s Cross-Regional Labor Transfer ProgramMarch 01, 2021
The present study draws on previously untranslated material, most notably the“Nankai Report” . . . Originally titled the“Work Report on Poverty Alleviation Work of Uyghur Labor Force Transfer in Hotan, Xinjiang” . . . it was published in December 2019 by the China Institute of Wealth and Economics at Nankai University.
The Nankai Report gives strong and authoritative evidence for large-scale, coercive state-driven recruitments into labor transfers and for the securitized nature of such transfers to other provinces. It notes that these transfers are intended to “reduce labor costs” for companies.
However, the Report also makes it clear that poverty alleviation through labor transfer is a means to a more troubling end. First, it bluntly states that the state took the “drastic short-term measure” of placing many Uyghurs into “Education and Training Centers” (a euphemism for re-education camps). Second, it notes that labor transfers represent a long-term measure to promote“assimilation” and “reduce Uyghur population density”. The Report recommends that this program should be “initiated quietly” with “no need to overly publicize this internationally.”
Elsewhere, Chinese academic publications describe labor transfers as a crucial means to “crack open the solidified [Uyghur] society” and to mitigate the negative impact of religion. They say that lax family planning policies produced a “severely excessive” number of Uyghur surplus laborers that now constitute a “latent threat to the current regime.”
Overall, the evidence shows that labor transfers constitute intentional displacements of populations deemed “problematic” by the government. This is complemented by two previously unreported campaigns: a) a large-scale transfer scheme by which hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority farmers and pastoralists transfer usage rights to their land or herds to state-run collectives for the purpose of “liberating” them to become industrial laborers; and b) a campaign to settle 300,000 additional Han Chinese settlers in Uyghur heartland regions by 2022 in order to “optimize southern Xinjiang’s population structure.”
Based on the author’s survey of Chinese academic research and government figures, up to 1.6 million transferred laborers are estimated to be generally at risk of being subjected to forced labor.