A withering new report has slammed numerous companies, including technology behemoth Apple and sportswear company Nike, for using forced labor to manufacture their products. Many workers who were reportedly coerced to work against their will were members of the Muslim Uighur minority in northwestern China.
The report was written by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which receives funding from the U.S. State Department and is focused specifically on the fates of Uighurs in China after being released from re-education, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The paper alleged that around 80,000 Uighurs were transferred to factories after leaving the camps under a program known as "Xinjiang Aid."
"At the factory, the Uighur laborers make [products] during the day," the report stated.
"In the evening, they attend a night school where they study Mandarin, sing the Chinese national anthem and receive vocational training and patriotic education. The curriculum closely mirrors that of Xinjiang's re-education camps," it continued.
"In such circumstances, it is unlikely that their work arrangements are voluntary," the report concluded on its findings.
The Xinjiang Aid initiative overtly aims to help China meet its "poverty-alleviation goals," but many policy experts have claimed that it is yet another way for the government to control the Uighur people, reports The Washington Post.
"Everyone knows they didn't come here of their own free will. They were brought here," explained one vendor who sells fruit outside one of the factories where Uighurs are sent.
"The Uighurs had to come because they didn't have an option. The government sent them here," echoed another.
Forced laborers were documented to be working in a number of factories across China. This included a Foxconn Technology factory located in Henan province. Foxconn is one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world and supplies major companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
Another was Huafu Top Dyed Melange Yarn Company, located in Anhui Province. The factory supplies cotton to clothing brands such as H&M, Zara, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Many Uighur workers said they were afraid to leave the factories out of fear that they would be sent back to the re-education camps or to prison.
Meanwhile, China has strongly denied allegations of both re-education camps as well as forced labor programs.
The withering report comes as the Middle Kingdom continues its battle against the deadly coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,800 people and infected close to 80,000 in the country.
The disease, which originated in the Hubei province, has since spread globally. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a coronavirus expert has claimed that the recent number of international cases is just "the tip of the iceberg," and warned that the crisis will get worse.