By: Noëllie Inard
It was recently revealed that one of the construction firms that built the venue for the World Cup soccer championships 2022 in Qatar had previously made concentration camps used to detain the Uyghurs in China. According to Time, an American news magazine and website based in New York City, the China Railway Construction Corporation, which participated in the construction of the Lusail stadium in Doha, the stadium that will house the World Cup 2022, had previously worked for Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. However, this firm was sanctioned for human rights abuses in China. Indeed, last march the European Union joined the U.S in sanctioning Corps leadership for “atrocious human rights violation” concerning their abuse of the Uyghurs in the province of Xinjiang.
The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim, Turkic ethnicity who live in China’s North-Western Xinjiang province. In 2014, the Chinese government imposed extensive controls and restrictions upon the Uyghurs’ lives. Indeed, they were controlled and watched by the police for signs of religious extremism, which, according to the Chinese government, is perceived as owning a book about Uyghurs, growing a beard, owning a prayer rug and quitting drinking and smoking. Since 2017, organizations fighting for the Uyghurs’ rights have estimated that around 3 million Uyghurs have been detained in Chinese concentration camps. According to the Chinese government, those camps are reeducation camps, also called vocational education and training centers, that aim at countering terrorism and promoting social integration.
However, it was revealed that those camps were aiming at changing the identity and religious beliefs of the Uyghurs. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a defense and strategy organization funded by the government, 380 detention facilities established across the region were identified in 2017 with the use of satellites. Inside those camps, the Uyghurs underwent forced labor, torture, and inhumane treatment. They are detained in crowded cells with no toilets, forced to eat pork, which is against their religious beliefs, are denied the right to pray and are separated from their family. The Uyghurs are raped and beaten to death, children are undergoing indoctrination and women are forced to abort and are sterilized without their consent.
In June 2020, the German anthropologist Adrian Zenz released a report showing that by forcing Uyghur women to abort, take birth control and be sterilized, the Chinese government has significantly decreased the growth rate of the Uyghurs in the region from 60% between 2015 and 2018. Moreover, in 2019 the birth rate declined from 24% across the region (retrieved from Wikipedia). In August 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that “serious human rights violations” against the Uyghur and“other predominantly Muslim communities” have been committed.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop there. According to a 2020 report by the ASPI, many Chinese firms are taking advantage of the forced labor provided by the Uyghurs on top of more than 80 countries across the world that also benefit from the forced labor directly or indirectly. Even though some governments like the U.S or the United Kingdom have imposed some restrictions regarding the cotton imported from China, they still allow companies to import and sell their product from China inside their country. Giant companies such as Adidas, Nike, Apple, Zara, H&M, SheIn and many others are taking advantage of the forced labor of the Uyghurs. At the same time, countries do not do anything to regulate their importation.
While Western governments have been aware of the situation in China for a long time without actively doing anything, most people in the West have only been recently made aware of what is happening to the Uyghurs. Nonetheless, despite knowing that most of their consumption has an indirect impact on the Uyghurs, people tend to care mostly about the benefits of buying products that are either cheap due to the low cost of forced labor or, to buy products that are directly influenced by high consumption and capitalism. The companies that are directly or indirectly taking advantage of the forced labor of the Uyghurs, and so, participating in their inhumane treatment, need to be held responsible by the government and people who have the power to boycott.
However, people in Western societies who have the means to consume better and make a change are too focused on their own needs and selfish consumption, which, on the grand scale of things makes them responsible for fueling companies that are directly taking part in the genocide of the Uyghurs. In this regard, the World Cup 2022 and the people involved in it will not only participate in the environmental disaster that this event will create but also, through their silence and participation in the event, in the agreement that capitalism and entertainment are worth the genocide of a whole ethnic group.