All posts filed under: Social Analysis

How Companies Profit From Forced Labor In Xinjiang

On November 3, 2018, Erzhan Qurban, a middle-aged Kazakh man from a small village 50 kilometers from the city of Ghulja in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was released from the camp where he had been held for nine months. He thought that perhaps now he would be free to return to his former life as an immigrant in Kazakhstan. Yet just a few days later, he was sent to work in a glove factory back in Ghulja city. Erzhan had been detained soon after he came back to China to seek medical treatment for his daughter and care for his ailing mother in early 2018. In an interview with the German magazine Die Zeit, he said: On the evening of February 8, 2018 they picked me up in a minibus. It was already dark and they put black plastic sacs over our heads and handcuffs on our wrists. There were five young men from my village with me in the minibus. The room in which I had to stay for the next nine months was …

From camps to prisons: Xinjiang’s next great human rights catastrophe

Just a little over a decade ago, the facility on 1327 Dongzhan Road, a few kilometers north of the forlorn freight station in the northern outskirts of Xinjiang’s Urumqi, was mostly trees and grass. On September 16, 2009, it officially became the new location of the Xinjiang Women’s Prison and of the Qixin Clothing Factory (run by “marketing specialist” Zong Liang, a Party member for whom prisons were his entire career). The move came on the heels of the infamous July 5 riots, and it wouldn’t be long before the new facility received what would become its first high-profile inmate – the writer, website moderator, and government employee Gulmire Imin. Convicted of “splittism, leaking state secrets, and organizing an illegal demonstration”, Imin was sentenced to life in a closed trial, despite alleged torture and lack of access to a lawyer. In the years that followed, the prison compound saw the construction of several new buildings, the continued operation of Qixin (together with the addition of another clothing company), and allegations of abuse, torture, and illegal …

Uyghur Love In A Time Of Interethnic Marriage

In May 2019, a young Uyghur graduate student in Europe who I’ll refer to as Nurzat received a WeChat video call from his panic-stricken girlfriend in a small city in southern Xinjiang. The young woman, who I’ll call Adila, told him that she would break up with him if he didn’t come back within the next several months to marry her. She said her parents were forcing her to do this. They thought that the risk of her being chosen for marriage by a Han young man was too high. They needed to find a Uyghur husband for her now, in order to protect her. Adila told Nurzat, “Please don’t blame me for doing this. A lot of Uyghur women are rushing to get married now. Everyone is afraid.” Nurzat and Adila met when they were both college students in Ürümchi. She had been placed in a major that put her in line for a job in the police force back in her hometown, while he found a computer engineering track that led him to …

How Kyrgyzstan abandoned its own in Xinjiang while Kazakhstan didn’t

While not exactly an odyssey, the trip from Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek to Kazakhstan’s “southern capital” of Almaty still makes for a day-long hassle. For many, it starts with climbing into a van at Bishkek’s western bus terminal, waiting up to an hour for the car to fill up, and then making a forty-minute drive to the border, where you get out, take all your things, and prepare for potentially grueling and chaotic lines – the depressing, lose-faith-in-humanity kind where people shove and curse, fighting to get inside and escape the weather, some with small children and others with push carts stacked overly high with goods. There, the border control guards – first the Kyrgyz and then, one river later, the Kazakh – check your things and documents and, depending on their mood and personality, decide whether or not to give you a hard time. Making it past them, you wait another thirty minutes to an hour for the van to get through its own inspection channel, after which you get back on and continue …