Xinjiang paramilitary group plays central role in Uyghur crackdown, report says

A Chinese state-run paramilitary group in Xinjiang is more deeply involved in the regional government’s repressive policies toward Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities than previously thought, a new report found.

Why is this important: The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) manages large swaths of the region’s agriculture and industry and owns shares in thousands of companies, meaning its products are connected to supply chains. supply from all over the world.

  • The group is already sanctioned by the US government.

What they found: The report explains how the XPCC is responsible for systematic forced migration, forced labor, mass internment, land expropriation, repressive policing and religious persecution targeting Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

  • “The XPCC has operationalized these programs over the past five years to create a reign of terror,” said the report, released Tuesday by the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.
  • The group has been “sent by the highest levels of the party-state to act as a military and industrial force to suppress Uyghur dissent” and “plays a critical and central role” in the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.

Here’s how the group is enabling the crackdown, according to the report:

Land expropriation: XPCC officials pressure rural Uyghur landlords to transfer their land ownership to others and instead work in factories or other industries. In one village, according to the report, 70% of the land had been transferred by Uyghur owners.

  • This serves two purposes: to destroy traditional Uyghur culture and communities tied to their ancestral land, and to enrich the XPCC or others who receive the land and then use it for industrial or agricultural development.

Dilution of the Uyghur population: The Chinese Communist Party has instructed the XPCC to “develop[ing] the proportion of the population” that is made up of Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, the report said.

  • In 2018, the XPCC began offering special employment and housing opportunities to Han Chinese workers in other parts of China to settle in the Uyghur-majority south of Xinjiang, where the Uyghur population has been the most affected by mass internment.

Mass internment: The XPCC has always run prisons. But around 2016, under government orders, the XPCC began to fill these prisons with Uyghurs and build new prisons to house even more inmates.

  • Many farms and factories operated by the XPCC have historically used prison labor. The recently expanded system of internment and indoctrination facilities also includes factories built within or adjacent to prison walls, according to the report.

By the numbers: The XPCC holds equity interests that can be linked up to 862,000 entities worldwide, according to business intelligence firm Sayari Labs.

  • The XPCC also holds a majority stake in at least 2,873 companiesaccording to the research organization C4ADS.

  • The organization manages a quarter of Xinjiang’s arable land.

What they say : “The XPCC’s explicit mission is the repression of the indigenous peoples and cultures of the Uyghur region,” said Laura Murphy, co-author of the report and professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Sheffield Hallam University. .

  • “It is clearer than ever that governments must prohibit the importation of goods manufactured by XPCC or any of its subsidiaries,” Murphy told Axios.
  • The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to a request for comment.

The backstory: The Chinese government created the XPCC in the 1950s, a few years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, to establish control over Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uyghur people.

  • The XPCC is organized into regiments and divisions, which often govern the settlements, lands, assets, and in some cases the universities where they are located.

What to watch: The report calls on governments around the world to publicly disclose customs data and share lists of XPCC-owned companies.

  • It also calls on development banks to cease all dealings with XPCC companies.
  • “The whole architecture of repression in Xinjiang should be enough for other countries to punish so does the XPCC,” said Luke de Pulford, director and co-founder of Arise, a nonprofit that fights slavery and co-funded the report. ” But this is not the case.

Go further: US sanctions Chinese paramilitaries in Xinjiang

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to note that the report was co-funded by Arise, not co-commissioned.

About Jessica J. Bass

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