From your phone, TV and sneakers to your clothes and COVID-19 masks, anti-slavery campaigners have warned there’s a very good chance part of them was made by political prisoners in China.
Activists have accused the Communist regime of being engaged in the world’s biggest forced labor outrage since the Nazis.
Look around your home and it’s claimed there is a very good chance something will have been made in cruel factories, which are staffed by inmates from nightmarish “gulag” style camps.
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the UK would fine any companies importing and selling these “barbaric” products.
He said: “Our aim, put simply, is that no company that profits from forced labor.
“The evidence paints a harrowing picture and showed the practice of barbarism we had hoped lost to another era.”
Here we look at the slave products allegedly on sale in the UK, the US and other Western countries which are made in what China chillingly calls “re-education facilities”.
Clothes, underwear and bedsheets?
A facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, in Artux, north of Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region.Getty Images
Chloe Cranston, from campaign group Anti-Slavery International, told The Sun Online persecuted Muslim Uighurs in China were forced to work to supply the world’s largest fashion companies.
Cranston said: “One-fifth of all cotton production can be presumed to be linked to the forced labor.
“You could be inadvertently putting on a product that was made off the backs of forced labor of Uighurs.”
Huge numbers from within this minority group, who are from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in the north-west of the country, have allegedly been locked up and hired out by Communist party officials to greedy factory bosses.
In September a leaked Beijing document revealed the scale of its detention camps — as officials say up to eight million people have gone through “training” at state “gulags”.
Cranston said: “This is the largest mass detention of a ethnic and religious identity since World War 2.”
Campaigners are calling on fashion companies to be more vigilant about their supply chains to avoid unwittingly outsourcing their products to the companies.
It has also been alleged that some sports brands were outsourcing manufacturing of sneakers to factories staffed by the detained Uighurs.
One manufacturer allegedly using slaves was the Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co, which is located in the city of Laixi.
Here they have allegedly been churning out Nike’s Shox or Airmax.
Nike announced it was reviewing its supply chains after the allegations first emerged in March.
The Washington Post visited the factory and said it was like a prison, with barbed wire, watchtowers and cameras.
An Uighur woman told them: “We can walk around, but we can’t go back [to Xinjiang on our own.”
Smartphones, laptops and TVs?
Uighur prisoners have also allegedly been forced into making computer screens, cameras and fingerprint scanners for a supplier to foreign tech companies.
It is claimed they work in the OFilm factory, in Nanchang, which boasts customers including Apple.
However, it was impossible to track specific products to specific companies.
Apple has said it has launched an investigation after the allegations but had found no evidence of forced labor used in its products.
One woman, who worked in the factory for several weeks alongside the Uighurs, told The Associated Press: “They don’t let them come out.
“The government chose them to come to OFilm, they didn’t choose it.”
OFilm has not commented on the allegations.
The US Department of Commerce had early in July designated OFilm Group among a list of eleven Chinese companies that it accuses of taking part in human rights violations against the Uighur people.
Only four companies in Xinjiang produced medical grade protective equipment before the pandemic, according to China’s National Medical Products Administration.
But as of June 30, that number had suddenly increased to 51.
At least 17 of those companies were found to be participating in the Uighurs’ “labor transfer program”, according to the New York Times.
Here reportedly 25 percent of its workforce are Uighur Muslims.
Christmas decorations and cards?
According to United States Government’s 2020 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, Christmas decorations are believed to be major slave product.
Greetings cards are another product, which human rights and anti-slavery campaigners say are made by forced labor.
Last Christmas, Florence Widdicombe, from Tooting, south London, was stunned when she opened the new box of charity cards and found the scrawled message inside from what appeared to be a slave worker begging for help.
Tesco, where the cards were bought, suspended use of the factory Zhejiang Yunguang Printing in Shanghai.
The factory has denied using slave labor and claimed the allegations were politically motivated.
China’s Foreign Ministry has also rebuffed the claims.
But a search on the website of global trade data firm Panjiva Inc by The Sun Online found the company made 25 shipments to the UK of greetings cards and kids colouring books in 2019.
In September, US Customs and Border Protection said it would seize any shipments of human hair from the Lop County Hair Product Industrial Park in southern Xinjiang.
That followed two earlier WROs on companies registered within the same area, including the June seizure of 13 tons of human hair worth £600,000 from the firm.
In a statement to The Sun Online, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said: “Forced labor is modern slavery.
“This holiday season, CBP is urging consumers to think twice before they buy cheap goods online and in stores.
“The apparel, hair extensions, laptops, jewelry, cosmetics and other products that you buy for friends and family may be made under conditions of modern slavery.”
After being contacted by The Sun Online, Apple referred to its statement it made in July where it said it had launched a detailed investigation of OFilm Tech after allegations of forced labor surfaced.
This involved dispatching independent third-party investigators to the factory and then conducting surprise audits in June and July, including verifying employee documentation and interviewing with workers in local languages, it said.
Following allegations of forced labor being used in Apple’s supply chain, its spokesman said: “We have found no evidence of any forced labor on Apple production lines and we plan to continue monitoring.”
Nike told The Sun Online it was concerned about reports of forced labor in and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
A spokesperson said: “Related to the Taekwang Group, when reports of the situation in XUAR began to surface in 2019 Taekwang stopped hiring new employees from the XUAR to its Qingdao facility and an independent third-party audit confirmed there are no longer any employees from XUAR at the facility.
“Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from the XUAR, elsewhere in our supply chain in China.
“Based on evolving information, we strengthened our audit protocols to identify emerging risks related to potential labor transfer programs.”