Workers oppose China’s forced labor camps

November 28, 2020

From the November-December 2020 issue of News & Letters

In late September, the House of Representatives responded to agitation from labor unions and human rights groups demanding action against China’s incarceration of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang for anti-Muslim indoctrination and forced labor by voting to prohibit broad categories of imports from that “Autonomous Region” into the U.S.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would block imports from textiles to human hair, even as production from labor camps holding over one million Uyghurs has exploded in response to hospitals and consumers in the U.S. desperate for surgical masks and PPE.

Sanctions on imports from Xinjiang would leave gaping loopholes for products of forced labor to enter the U.S. China has moved a half million agricultural workers in Tibet into similar forced labor camps. And Uyghur forced labor is not confined to slave labor camps in Xinjiang: At least 80,000, have been forcibly moved into Pacific provinces like Fujian where they toil long hours at factories, but are held in separate dormitories under guard.


Action of the House of Representatives, whether it would have any effect on China’s repression of ethnic minorities or prove merely symbolic if it becomes law, is at least in the tradition of union agitation a century ago to exclude the products of child labor from interstate commerce—and there is evidence of child labor in Uyghur labor camps as well.


Oddly, there are opponents of the Xi regime, whether among Western supporters of Uyghur rights or within the Hong Kong democracy movement, who have looked to Trump for support. They have illusions about Trump, even though his allegiance is to one-party rulers for life like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Xi.

The National Security Law that Xi’s regime imposed on Hong Kong on July 1 shattered any semblance of autonomy and freedom of speech for its citizens, and under its provisions Hong Kong authorities have rounded up leaders and participants in the massive marches of hundreds of thousands and even millions since last year. After scheduled elections to the Legislative Council were postponed until next year, authorities expelled four opposition members from the body. In response, 15 more members of the Legislative Council resigned, even as arrests of march participants continue.

—Bob McGuire

How did the resistance in Hong Kong arise, and what is the line from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping?

Read: Philosophy and Revolution: From Hegel to Sartre and From Marx to Mao by Raya Dunayevskaya


Includes Chapter 5, The Thought of Mao Zedong:
A. Discontinuities and Continuities
B. From Contradiction to Contradiction to Contradiction
C. Alienation and Revolution

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *