The products of Uyghur forced labour are currently flooding the UK supply chains. Over 17 industries are implicated in Uyghur forced labour programmes, with the cotton, solar and high-tech sectors especially vulnerable to complicity in the Chinese government’s human rights violations. Despite the scale of the crisis, the UK is currently falling behind other nations on policy measures to tackle modern slavery and genocide.
Stop Uyghur Genocide is calling on governments, brands and multinational corporations to take accountability for their complicity in modern slavery practices by ridding their supply chains of Uyghur forced labour.
Forced labour in the Uyghur Region:
State-facilitated forced labour programmes are so deeply ingrained in the Uyghur region that experts recommend working under the ‘presumption of a high risk of forced labour in any workplace located within the region.’
Forced labour in the Uyghur region takes 3 primary forms:
- Internment Camp Labour: Whilst held in arbitrary detention Uyghurs are often required to perform manual labour, either in factories with on-site facilities or in nearby factories.
- State-Sponsored Labour Transfers: Millions of Uyghurs have also been placed in the PRC’s compulsory ‘surplus labour’ or ‘labour transfer’ programmes, forcing them into a modern slavery network with the threat of detention ever present if they refuse to participate or air a grievance. Workers in these programs are not allowed to quit their jobs.
- State Conscription of Labourers: For decades, the Chinese government has conscripted Uyghurs and other marginalised groups to pick cotton and other agricultural products.
Campaigning for Renewable Energy Free from Forced Labour
Our End Solar Forced Labour campaign seeks to change the landscape of clean energy procurement and production through cross-community, coordinated action. From consumers to councils to corporations, everybody has a role to play in refusing to accept forced labour in our renewable energy supply chains.
We are working with trade unions, NGOs, companies and public bodies to shine a light on the role of forced labour in solar production. On the road to net zero, we want to ensure that multinationals do not exploit the land, labour and natural resources of the Uyghur people.
To execute this work effectively we work in close alignment with the End Uyghur Forced Labour Coalition: a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses taking place in the Uyghur Region.
Our Ethical Procurement Guide with UNISON and Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice:
Stop Uyghur Genocide has worked with the UK’s largest union UNISON and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University (the research team that authored the leading report on Uyghur forced labour in the solar industry) to provide a guide on Uyghur forced labour and solar supply chains. It is designed to help local government authorities (and other public bodies) make better purchasing decisions and streamline their solar supplier vetting process through policy guidelines, template letters and model motions.
Our targeted letter to help councils, consumers and consumers trace their solar supply chains:
Corporate, community and council procurers can use our template letter to engage with suppliers on the issue of Uyghur forced labour and to monitor where companies are sourcing their materials from. If their supply chain leads back to the Uyghur region, procurers should make a commitment to terminate these contracts as soon as possible and seek alterantive suppliers
Our model motion for trade unions, CLPs and councils pushing for ethical solar:
As part of our mission to clean up the UK’s solar supply chains, we are encouraging local constituency parties to pass a motion calling on their council to take concrete steps to end solar procurement. Find it below:
Stop Uyghur Genocide is part of a coalition of organisations calling for a forcible ban on Chinese-state-sponsored CCTV companies Hikvision and Dahua as providers to UK governments and councils.
Both Hikvision and Dahua provide surveillance technology that facilitates the persecution and perpetuation of crimes against humanities against Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in their homeland. Both companies have contracts worth at least $1.2 billion for 11 separate, large-scale surveillance projects across the region, which includes operation in the state-run concentration camps and mosques. Hikvision has marketed its software’s ability to send automated “Uyghur alarms” to government authorities when its camera systems identify members of the minoritised group.
As well as being implicated in egregious human rights abuses, these cameras also pose a significant to risk to national security, as they are subject to the “National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China.”
How are governments responding?
Hikvision and Dahua Technology are already blacklisted in the USA for their links to the ongoing atrocities in the Uyghur Region. Last year, the European Parliament voted to remove the newly installed Hikvision thermal cameras, citing “an unacceptable risk that Hikvision, through its operations in Xinjiang, is contributing to serious human rights abuses”.
Thanks to pressure from our coalition, councils across Kent, Wales and Scotland have committed to removing Hikvision cameras from public buildings as “part of an on-going security improvement programme”. The UK government has also taken some significant steps towards challenging the ubiquity of Hikvision apparatus across government sites. In November last year, cabinet minister Oliver Dowden confirmed that Hikvision security cameras will no longer be installed in or on government buildings.
This policy is welcome, but remains insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem.
We are calling for an outright ban on the sale and operation of Hikvision and Dahua surveillance equipment in the UK. We also call on the Government to commission an independent national review of the scale, capabilities, ethics and rights impact of modern CCTV in the UK.
VW Call-In Campaign
Some brands, such as Volkswagen, claim that their due diligence procedures protect against the use of slave labour. Yet experts in slave labour have stated that it is impossible to carry out reliable diligence in China, to ensure that firms do not profit from the imprisonment of Uyghurs. Given Volkswagen’s decision to emphasise ethics in its mission statement, we are encouraging the company to take a lead, by closing their factory in the Uyghur region. Who would want to drive a product of slave labour?
Below is some advice and a script that has enabled activists to engage in effective conversation with the company:
Volkswagen Call-in Guidance:
- Be polite at all times.
- Be patient. It can take 20-30 mins to get through!
- Remember that the person on the phone is an employee and not responsible for policy.
- Be friendly; try to establish a rapport, rather than trying to start an argument.
- Most will be very professional and courteous but, if not, ask to speak to a someone more senior.
The number to call is 0044 1908 601601
Hello, my name is _____ and I am a supporter of the Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign. I would like to speak to customer relations, because I am concerned at suggestions that VW’s supply chain might epmploy Uyghur slave labour in its factory in the Uyghur region – referred to as Xinjiang by the Chinese authorities. Would you put me through to someone, please? Thank you.
What you want from VW
I would like VW to close their factory in the Uyghur region of China.
Why you want this
Firstly, research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests that the factory may use Uyghur Muslim slave labour. Secondly, the region is host to hundreds of concentration camps. Given VW’s own unsavoury history, the company should distance itself from any such camp network, whose inmates face torture, death, rape, forced labour and forced sterilisation; there is also evidence of the removal of Uyghur children from their communities and their placement into Han Chinese boarding schools. The US administration, the Canadian and Dutch parliaments, and independent British legal opinions have all recently declared that these camps are the epicentre of a Genocide.
Why WV should want this
VW doesn’t want customers to risk driving cars made with Uyghur Slave Labour. The company has said that it undertakes due diligence to demonstrate the absence of slave labour. However, key international supply chain audit organisations have refused to work in this region, because such diligence is simply not possible there. Organisations such as the Fair Labor Association and the Ethical Trading Initiative recommend that companies look elsewhere, when establishing supply chains.
By closing their factory, VW would show the same moral leadership that Nike, H&M, Lacoste and ADIDAS have already shown in leaving the region. This would enable VW to follow their code of conduct, which states that “socially responsible conduct and commercial success foster one another.” It would demonstrate that VW are committed never to revisit their shameful Nazi past, which their CEO described as “unacceptable” and that they have implemented ethical changes since their involvement in the 2015 diesel emissions scandal.
Leaving the region would put the company on the right side of public opinion in the UK, where polls have demonstrated widespread public concern regarding China’s international human rights obligations.
Finally, withdrawal from this region would enhance VW’s reputation, and appeal to increasingly ethically conscious consumers.
I ask VW to live up to its code of conduct and show that it repudiates its past, by responding to the Uyghur Genocide and closing its factory in the Uyghur region until the Genocide has ceased.
Please ask the person you speak to what they will do with your comments and, if you are comfortable doing so, leave your details with them and ask for a reply.
- Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice Report: In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains
- BBC Report: Uyghur Forced Labour in Solar
- Guardian Report: UK solar projects using panels from firms linked to Xinjiang forced labour.