Multiple independent reports suggest that as many as one million people from Uyghur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities have been arbitrarily detained in China’s Xinjiang province in recent years. Many of these people are allegedly accommodated in so-called ‘political reeducation’ and ‘vocational training’ centres. Many are allegedly forced to work – both in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China – on worksites supplying goods to global markets, notably in the cotton, tomato and solar panel supply-chains.
In response, countries have begun adopting import bans, targeted sanctions and other economic coercive measures – binding instruments intended to cause the target some harm or economic loss with the purpose of inducing a change in policy or practices. Some companies have adopted heightened due diligence measures, or even divested from operations in the region. The Chinese government has adopted its own counter-measures, sanctioning actors in more than a dozen countries, and adopting new regulatory frameworks to discourage cooperation with foreign measures targeting alleged Xinjiang forced labour.
Since Xinjiang is the source of around 20 per cent of global cotton, 18 per cent of global tomato production (and over 40 per cent of tomato paste), and 35 to 45 per cent of global polysilicon used in solar panels, this exchange of coercive measures and counter-measures may have the potential for significant impact on global trade. This could have important economic and political ramifications, not least given the growing demand for solar panels as efforts to decarbonize gain pace around the world.
This project, based at the University of Nottingham Rights Lab tracks and analyses these measures relating to alleged Xinjiang forced labour and offers recommendations for how their preventive impact can be strengthened.
The UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office has provided the Rights Lab with funding which has been used towards this project.