Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda

Detainees listening to speeches in a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, April 2017

Amy K. Lehr
Director, Human Rights Initiative

CSIS Briefs
July 30, 2020

The Issue

The forced labor of ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), as part of a broader pattern of severe human rights abuses, is a significant and growing concern that demands the attention of governments and private-sector actors across the world. Products entering the United States, Europe, and other democracies are at risk of being affected by these forced labor practices, which often occur several steps away from global brands in supply chains. Companies cannot currently easily ensure that their products are not affected by XUAR-linked forced labor because brands often cannot trace their products to origin, and the XUAR’s important role in a number of sectors may require significant changes in sourcing practices. Moreover, global brands seeking to exert leverage on their Chinese suppliers with regard to XUAR sourcing are reportedly seen to intervene with internal political affairs. This brief explores what the XUAR produces, the sectors that are implicated, the resulting sourcing challenges, and the opportunities for collective action to be explored in further research.

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