In the land where high school students recreate the recent assassination of a Japanese prime minister to widespread social media glee and a national love of panda bears is twisted via fake news into hatred for America, antisemitic discourse swirls on an internet newly re-crowned by Freedom House as the most censored in the world for the ninth year in a row.
There, Beijing celebrated the end of the Asian Games in Hangzhou by forcibly repatriating around 500 North Koreans, who will now endure forced labor, imprisonment and even possible execution upon their return as punishment for trying to escape the extremist state in the first place. With its “heart to heart” slogan, the games had emboldened human rights leaders and former United Nations special rapporteurs to appeal to China President Xi Jinping for mercy on the Koreans’ behalf. The deportations seem to have been his response.
The refoulement, punctuated by the reported trampling of a centuries-old Buddhist tradition to massage the ego of war criminal Bashar Assad, set the stage for China to be re-elected (after running unopposed) to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Corroding the U.N.’s credibility from within, 164 states cast votes in a secret ballot to rubber-stamp Beijing’s return to its seat, despite the council’s own experts suspecting it of forced assimilations, organ harvesting, imprisonment of peaceful human rights defenders and crimes against humanity, among other assaults on human dignity. This is 25 more than the 139 supporters it garnered in 2020, despite a vociferous campaign to highlight why it is totally unsuitable for the role.
China’s selection does a grave disservice to people like Peng Lifa (彭立发), who is widely believed to be the courageous figure who catalyzed China’s 2022 “White Paper Revolution” by hanging a banner from Beijing’s Sitong Bridge calling for freedom and Xi Jinping to be deposed. October 13 marked one year since Peng was disappeared. To date, nobody beyond the Chinese Communist Party knows where he is being held, but, no matter the place, he is at severe peril of permanent physical and psychological damage.
Others at risk of torture include the Uyghurs of East Turkestan (Xinjiang), who, predictably, are being framed as terrorists by some misinformative quarters of the Twittersphere in the aftermath of the Hamas massacre last week. They have just endured the annual kidnapping of sensitive individuals that precedes the October 1 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. To head off any possibility of protest against Beijing on its special day, more than 50 Uyghurs were captured by police from just two communities alone this year, according to Radio Free Asia.
What will happen to them next is anybody’s guess, but being buried alive while enduring de facto slavery in an ecological wasteland as their relatives are intimidated into silence, tragically, is not an impossible outcome. Indeed, adding to the existing evidence of forced labor in the tomato, textile and solar industries, a landmark report by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) has sequenced the supply chain for gold in China, discovering it also to pass through the hands of Uyghurs, who are highly vulnerable to compulsory placement in unsafe mines, before it reaches the jewelry and tech components of daily life such as, perhaps, the computer that types this article.
The report broke new ground to uncover China’s state-owned companies that profit from the alleged enslavement and the big-name firms that are invested in or exposed one way or another to the process. Take a bow, Amazon, Apple, Blackstone, Dell, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Standard Chartered, Tesla and Vanguard, among 420 others, whose activities, according to C4ADS, are enabled by the international failure to recognize East Turkestan as a high-risk area under OECD due diligence guidelines, to prohibit investment in companies that operate there or to implement functional human rights compliance accreditation.
Another industry rocked by a similar expose this month is seafood. As if enough chaos was not already caused by its fishing boat militia, the Chinese government is now suspected of coercively shipping Uyghurs out of East Turkestan to work in factories, processing whatever has been pillaged from the ocean lately by debt-bonded sailors. As reported in The New Yorker by Pulitzer-winning journalist Ian Urbina, by transporting Uyghurs to regions inside China-proper, producers skirt scrutiny of their supply chains and continue the hassle-free export of fish, squid and other sea creatures to the European Union and United States.
Others with complicity — witting or unwitting — in potential forced Uyghur labor are the stars of the United States National Basketball Association (NBA), whose commissioner, Adam Silver, has just received a letter from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Made public in early October, the letter intimates NBA hypocrisy in regard to its guiding principles of equality and freedom of expression, alleges its “muzzling of those who criticize the [People’s Republic of China’s] egregious human rights abuses” and requests the sale of items “made by sportswear companies that endorse the use of materials from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)” to be prohibited.
Picked up by Rolling Stone, the contract between eight-time all-star player Kyrie Irving and China’s ANTA Sports attracted the commission’s specific criticism in a concurrent letter sent to Christian James McCollum, president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). ANTA, a sportswear giant headquartered in Jinjiang, publicly withdrew from the Better Cotton Initiative, an ethical governance oversight body, over one year ago to continue sourcing material from East Turkestan, where cotton plantations are one of the recipients of labor transfers from internment camps. Several of its products cannot, therefore, be legally imported to the U.S.
Irving has been employed as ANTA’s chief creative officer after having been dropped by Nike for promoting an incendiary video that apparently blames Jews for racism and — of all things — slavery. As pointed out by the Commission on China, his recent ANTA contract as a current professional player juxtaposes uncomfortably with the treatment suffered by fellow basketballer Enes Kanter Freedom, who testified in July of this year that the NBPA pressured him to desist from publicly highlighting the plight of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Taiwanese at the hands of the Chinese government. Unlike Irving, Kanter Freedom’s 11-year basketball career was cut conspicuously short, perhaps as a result of his outspoken stance.
Beyond the NBA, whose decision-makers like McCollum may soon be called to speak before the U.S. congress, more companies and organizations can expect mail in the post soon given the level of exposure to forced labor in the U.S. economy. On top of the communist political rectifications and prospect of being locked in the Middle Kingdom indefinitely, the risks of doing business in China are rising much faster than the benefits.