Database Entry: Financing & Genocide: Development Finance and the Crisis in the Uyghur Region
Forced Labor

Financing & Genocide: Development Finance and the Crisis in the Uyghur Region

February 15, 2022
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Labor transfers are often facilitated through or significantly expedited by coercive land transfer and cooperativization programs. XUAR government programs called “enterprise + cooperative + order farming” (企业+合作社+订单农业) and “land transfer + x new countryside development strategy” (土地流转+X新农村发展方略) explicitly connect the expropriation of Uyghur lands with “development,” and companies directly benefit. These programs are designed to “establish cooperatives and combine land transfers, livestock care, contract farming, characteristic planting, and surplus labor transfers.” This entails an agreement by which companies determine what crops will be planted in an area to meet their manufacturing needs. The company then sets the price for the harvest of those crops. The state in turn organizes small-scale farmers to transfer their land to a larger cooperative, run by a small group of the most prominent farmers in the area, or sometimes a Han Chinese person. Often one shareholder holds as much as 90 percent of the stake in the cooperative, as can be ascertained from a review of Xinjiang-located farming cooperatives’ shareholders in SAIC filings.

The programs are clearly not welcomed by many Uyghur and Kazakh agriculturalists who have worked the land in the Uyghur Region for generations. In April 2020, a Xinjiang State Rural Cooperative Economic Development Center report revealed signs of the indigenous people’s reluctance to transfer their land when they indicated that “[i]n order to make the grassroots cadres and the broad masses of farmers truly realize that land transfer and the development of rural land management at scale are the only way to realize agricultural modernization, [government agencies] have jointly organized many training courses in land contract management law, regulation, and policy for rural cadres, actively guiding farmers to carry out land transfer, speeding up the exchange of land, and organically combine rural land transfer with the exchange and merging of land plots, making the policy well-known, and arousing farmers’ enthusiasm for land transfer.” The farmers are encouraged to change their mindset from passive to active, from “I am wanted to transfer [my land]” to “I want to transfer.”

These coercive state-sponsored land appropriation programs directly benefit corporations. Village “work teams” made up of CCP cadres visit the homes of area farmers promising a dividend for their land. Sometimes whole villages are coerced into transferring land. In some cases, the government demolishes an entire village’s homes and forces the residents to move into new cookie-cutter “modern” housing developments, sometimes intentionally located next to a factory. Some of the now landless farmers are then expected to work the land that has just been expropriated from them and are paid wages below the state-determined minimum. Others are “liberated” from the land and “transferred” for work in factories, often far from their homes. Reports from the last ten years of Uyghur dispossession suggest that the government threatens Uyghurs that if they do not transfer their lands for the use of private companies owned by Han people they could be arrested. Government reports describe the transfers as short-term leases, justifying compensation rates at below market value. However, often farmers understand the expropriation to be permanent, particularly as it involves demolition (without adequate compensation) of their family homes and sustained coercion by authorities. Contracts are sometimes written in Mandarin, which many Uyghur farmers cannot read, and “signed” by thumbprint.