Will the Evidence Against Xinjiang Ever be Found?

Jerry Grey
5 min readMay 30, 2023

Watch a video recording of this article here: https://youtu.be/QIAxI1pRxus

It’s surely a coincidence that Australian mining mogul, Andrew Forrest’s Green Energy Manufacturing Centre near Queensland’s Gladstone is under construction at the same time as Andrew Forrest’s founded and funded Human Rights Group Mindaroo Foundation has found reports of a rapidly rising risk of slave labour in China’s Xinjiang.

Let’s read that again: “rapidly rising risks” of slave labour. OK, there is a risk, but, by what measure is the risk rising — the only measure of a rise in this risk is a rise in the rhetoric surrounding it. The ABC kindly assists by amplifying the “risks” and to substantiate its claim, uses an already debunked photo of a drug rehabilitation centre, which Nury Vittachi of Fridayeveryday.com tore to pieces with facts that western media just hadn’t bothered to look for. It also uses another, often used, photo of a construction site which is… OMG, a prison! Look carefully and you see construction workers walking along the outside of a prison perimeter no prisoners inside a “camp”.

If we could just step back, review the wording and take a critical look at this: there is a risk crossing the road, but not everyone dies doing so; there is a risk smoking but not everyone gets cancer when they do; there is a risk that China might have some forced labour but there’s no evidence to prove that they do.

Xinjiang has 25 million people, about the same number as Australia. So, why is a photo of a prison so damning? In a region about quarter the size of Australia (1.664 million km2) it’s absolutely certain that Xinjiang has prisons, after all, Australia has 115 of them, why wouldn’t China have a similar number in a region with a similar population. Just to prove it, while, no one is calling Australia an authoritarian regime (well, not too many are, but some are referring to it as increasingly authoritarian) here are some similar photos from Australia to look at:

Photo of a prison in Townsville, Queensland, courtesy of the Courier Mail
An unnamed prison in Victoria from SBS

What is missing from all the reports, including the UN Human Rights Commission report of late last year is the smoking gun. In legal terms, the evidence just isn’t there. This was well-documented by the COWESTPRO Papers a few months ago, evidence of forced labour just hasn’t been proven and this is indicated time and time again by the careful wording of reports suggesting it has been proven — it never has and, speaking as someone who knows Uyghurs and has traveled extensively in the region, I can report that it’s not likely to be proven. The reason being that it simply doesn’t exist.

China is not what western media and western politicians suggest it is. There is rule of law, it just happens to be different to the tule of law in the west. The Chinese labour laws are strong, but they aren’t as extensive as the west. The main difference is that they protect the people more than they protect the business owners and that’s where the difference lies.

Consider how many reports we’ve seen of China cutting billionaires down to size. Just a couple of months ago, it was clear that China was doing this in media reports of crackdowns on corrupt billionaires. What’s really interesting is on the same page there are search results of Australia’s government enhancing a “corrupt businessman’s” fortune.

Let’s also consider that there’s a KFC in the major tourist attraction of Xinjiang’s largest city. Some might say this is not a big deal but Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and, at the foot of the most famous mosque in the region there is a KFC. KFC is owned by Yum Foods which has 450,00 employees in China and over 8,400 restaurants. Yet not a single allegation of forced labour, violations of labour laws or even child labour exists against them. Only one allegation, for which Yum Foods apologised when one of their suppliers was caught by Chinese police breaking laws in 2016. Our critical readers will note it was China’s police who acted, China’s police who advised Yum Foods, McDonalds and Starbucks of the issues and it was China’s police who arrested and prosecuted people breaking China’s laws.

At the same time, John Deere, the largest agriculture machinery supply company in the world has expanded its interests into China to capitalise on China’s growing machinery market meaning less work for any “forced labour”.

Go on Booking.com and see which are the best hotels to say in in Xinjiang, if you really want to go there and see for yourself, you can. You can experience the luxury of Conrad Hilton, Marriott, the Sheraton and other Western 5-star brands. Would these organisations be operating there under a blanket of forced labour and, come to think of it, why aren’t they all moving out or getting sanctioned? The answer is simple, because they’ve done their research, they know it’s not true. As do the 54 Fortune 500 companies which operate without any issues in the region.

China’s polysilicon and photovoltaic industry is the same; it’s highly automated, the factories shown in many Chinese media outlets all prove this. Interviews with real workers in the real factories may be dismissed as Chinese propaganda but it’s hard to deny, a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure to process polysilicon is hardly in keeping with a slave labour workforce to supply it. It simply doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t add up.

What does add up is an Australian mining magnate, with an interest in building a green energy plant would make a lot more money if the products used are much more expensive. And the only reason any country would invest more money than it needs to in something that’s two or three times the price of another country’s products would be because they can prove some illegal acts. But there’s the question, can these allegations be proven or are they simply “rapidly increasing risks?”

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Jerry Grey

I’m British born Australian living in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write mostly positively about my China experiences