Human rights abuses by the Chinese government to the Uyghurs means we need to ban fashion made in China NOW
By Ross D. Walley
It’s a fact that the ‘woke’ crowd has been demanding the removal of statues of dudes like Thomas Jefferson or Winston Churchill because they owned slaves or were staunch imperialists. Young people, particularly in the USA, go on BLM marches calling for an end to racism. They wear hats, shoes and clothing produced by the brands that support their cause. Brands like Nike, Target, Walmart, H&M, Levi’s, Lululemon, Everlane, and others. But there’s a huge, huge irony that seems to be lost on them: most of these brands are currently complicit in perpetuating the worst cases of modern slavery right now.
Yep, it’s true. We’re talking about the enslavement of the Uyghur people by the Chinese government. And in all likelihood, they made your clothes. Or picked the cotton to make them. And that’s why we need to ban fashion made in China right now.
Who Are The Uyghurs?
The Uyghurs (pronounced weegers) reside in the Xinjiang Uyghur region of China. Like Tibet, Xinjiang is autonomous which, in theory, gives them the right to self-governance. However, in practice, the region is subject to major human rights and other restrictions imposed by the central government – just like Tibet.
The Uyghurs are among the oldest Turkic speaking people of Central Asia. There were least 10 million in this region in the early 21st century. The Uyghur kingdom was established in Mongolia in the 8th century, but eventually was overtaken. These people were then forced to relocate to where they still exist today in China.
These Sunni Muslims are sedentary village-dwelling people residing in Tien Shan, one of the most arid regions in the world. For centuries, they have practiced sustainable irrigation to conserve water for agriculture, from which they live.
By the mid 20th century, the Han (ethnic Chinese) began moving into the region and threatening the Uyghur way of life. By the late 20th century, the Han constituted two-fifths of the Xianjiang population. Tensions arose between the Communist Chinese and the devoutly Muslim Uyghurs. Chinese authorities cracked down on the suspected dissidents and separatists. This resulted in multiple arrests, shootings and long jail sentences. In 2017, citing a need for greater security, the government set up checkpoints, surveillance cameras and constant police patrols in the Uyghur dominated areas. But then, things got even worse.
The Tensions Escalate To Human Rights Abuses
In recent years, the most shocking government move was the indefinite detention of up to one million Uyghurs. They were separated from their families and forced into “political training” centres. These are heavily fortified buildings which have been likened to the “re-education centres” of one of history’s greatest tyrants and mass murderers, Mao Tse Tung, who was responsible for the deaths of over 65 million of his own people.
These re-education camps are essentially forced labour camps. Prisoners are brainwashed and forced to create Western clothing and beauty products under appalling conditions, including physical and mental abuse – some are even killed. It is alleged that Uyghur women are being sterilised and raped. All prisoners’ movements and even thoughts are continuously monitored through surveillance systems and apps on the ‘smart’ watches they are forced to wear. The goal is to have them renounce their religious and cultural beliefs, and to adhere to the doctrine of the Chinese Communist party. It’s definitely time to ban fashion made in China.
Pro-BLM Brands Made By Slave Labour
Slave labour is, of course, great for companies. Even ‘woke’ ones. They get to have their products made essentially for free!
- Inditex (Zara, Mango, etc)
- L Brands (Victoria’s Secret – also made by prisoner slave labour in the USA)
- North Face
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Marks & Spencer
The Brands’ Responses
Ironically, most of these brands have proclaimed themselves to be ‘pro-BLM’ and have even donated to the ’cause’ (though there have been allegations they have been blackmailed into doing so. That’s another story…)
Most of these brands have responded to the accusations of their human rights abuses with the typical PR letters that say they’re strongly against human rights abuses and will ‘do better’ to ensure they don’t violate their policies. Blah, blah, blah. Haven’t we heard such statements from the likes of Nike, adidas and Gap time and time again? And isn’t it damn obvious that if you care about human rights abuses, you should never be doing business with a country that decides how their citizens can live, where they can go, and what they can do, depending on their ‘social credit score?’ It seems that sweet Chinese market is just too profitable for these self-proclaimed ‘woke’ companies to resist. And it seems it’s undoubtedly time to ban fashion made in China.
Not Just Uyghurs
There are many more reasons we should ban fashion made in China. Here are but a few egregious practices the Chinese Communist Party engages in. Any one of these is sufficient reason to boycott goods made in this country.
- They’ve long been persecuting practitioners of the mindfulness/spiritual practice Falun Gong. Not only are these people persecuted and thrown in jail, but their organs are often harvested as part of the black market trade.
- Although they state animal testing is no longer a must for cosmetics sold in China, the Chinese government’s red tape to get around that is so complex, animal tests are still required for most brands.
- Animal welfare standards in the country are beyond repulsive. Bear bile and civet musk farming, the illegal trade and consumption of exotic wildlife, and the consumption of dog meat are rife. Plus, stray cats and dogs are often caught to make fur fashions.
- Human rights overall in China don’t exist. Normal citizens need to apply for permission to move house. Tens of millions were locked in apartment buildings for months, with no access to fresh air or in some cases, food and water, to stop the spread of Covid. Free speech is basically a joke. The social crediting system in China means no one is truly free.
- China’s environmental crimes are too many to count. Whilst Western extractive companies are accountable to shareholders and CSR policies, Chinese companies are free to pollute rampantly. And they do, often.
What You Can Do
This brings us to what you can do. In short, it’s time to ban fashion made in China, now.
- If you really care about ending modern slavery and promoting human rights, take your focus off ‘micro-aggressions’ in the West and start placing it on the actual murder, rape and forced indoctrination and sterilisation going on right now in China
- On social media, call out the insane double standards of virtue-signalling, BLM supporting companies like Nike and point out their willingness to support modern slavery in distant lands
- Obviously, ban all the companies mentioned above, and spread the word about their compliance in human rights abuses in China
- Call to ban the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China. Allowing the games to go ahead gives the signal that what the Chinese are doing to their own citizens is OK.
- Sign this petition.
- Buy locally made clothing, beauty products and electronics instead of anything ‘made in China’
The Chinese government knows what they’re doing is wrong. They have threatened to boycott Nike and H&M if they refuse to use their cotton in the manufacturing of their products. They’ve also threatened to leverage their power by advising their 1.3 billion citizens to boycott any brands that refuse their slave labour. The Chinese government has also warned of a “robust” response should the Olympic games be either cancelled or relocated. And they often pay major Western media outlets to cover up their monstrosity.
But we consumers and more importantly, large fashion companies, must not be bullied by these threats.
While we understand almost all governments around the world are guilty of some form of atrocity, China’s behaviour is particularly heinous, heavy handed and extended.
If the Chinese can enslave a group of people that don’t support the government and their narrative, what’s to stop other governments from doing the same? If we allow such atrocities to go on in other parts of the world, it’s sending a clear signal to our own governments that we think that’s ok.
And it never, ever is.
Do you agree it’s time to ban fashion made in China? Let us know in the comments, below!
Ross D. Walley is a Canadian journalist.
All images: Wikicommons