China is forcefully taking the lands and freedom from the people of Tibet and Xinjiang. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the methods in detail by which China managed to take over these places.
Under the ambit of its poverty alleviation program, China has usurped the land of Tibetans and turned it into government-run cooperatives. According to Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang observer, the Chinese authorities have set quotas for mass transfer and training of close to 500,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers and herders within Tibet and to other parts of China. While the rural labor training and employment initiative for pastoralists and farmers in Lhasa was run on a small scale during the first half of 2000, the 11th five-year program (2006–2010) expanded this type of training throughout Tibet. The military-style training for surplus labour force transfer for pastoral and agricultural regions was initiated and thereafter formally established in Chamdo region in 2012 and 2016 respectively and was later adopted in the Shannan region as well.
In 2020, some of the workers transferred outside of Tibet were sent to construction projects in Qinghai and Sichuan while others transferred in Tibet were trained in textiles, security and agricultural production work. The 2020 quotas according to the regional Tibetan government policy notices and prefecture implementation plans for local government offices include a supply of more than 1000 workers from Lhasa, 1,400 from Xigaze and 8,00 from Shannan.
In Xinjiang, thousands of Muslims are arbitrarily detained in detention centers which China claims as “reeducation camps”. As per a Chinese government white paper, approximately 1.3 million people had been through Xinjiang’s ‘vocational training’ scheme annually for six years. A unique quasi governmental paramilitary organization, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), responsible for over 37 per cent of Xinjiang’s total cotton production, uses forced labour to construct irrigation and water management systems for cotton fields and harvesting cotton. It has its own administrative units containing prisons and labour camps and reportedly maintains 36 prison farms.
As in Xinjiang, the same terms, “supra regional employment transfer” and “labour exports” are used by China to define the established mechanisms and target quotas for the transfer of rural surplus laborer in and outside Tibet. In both the regions, the workers are transferred to their destination in “point to point, centralized group-style fashion” and are grouped into teams of 10 to 30. They are then subjected to military drill and military style training management to transform thinking and identity through the teaching of law and Chinese language. Private intermediaries such as agents and companies that organize the transfer receive subsidies for each laborer moved in and out of the region. The presence of local cadres makes the discipline stricter by forcing the masses to comply with the strengthening of “patriotic awareness” and reformation of “backward thinking”.
Through emphasis on ideological training, military quotas and military style management the transfers have coercive elements. For example, in eastern Tibet’s Chamdo district, state media images from 2016, show laborer lining up drill formation in military fatigues while waitresses in military clothing are seen training at a vocational facility in the same district. According to a report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Initiative, more than 80,000 Uyghur Muslims were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and undergo ideological training outside working hours while typically living in segregated dormitories in factories far away from home.
The evidence for suppression of Uyghur and Tibetan people by China is a well established fact as the aforementioned information shows. The way forward for the international community to curtail China’s growing assertiveness should be to pressurize the Chinese government to follow the International Labour Organisation (ILO’s) Convention on Forced Labour while human rights groups and consumers should demand companies manufacturing in China to ensure they are not involved in coercive labour schemes and that they uphold basic human rights. The foreign governments should impose penalties and devise mechanisms that ask them to show transparency while also making commitments not to further indulge in such practices. If the coercive practices continue, they should review or revoke trade agreements with such companies or China at large.