COVID-19, Uyghur Forced Labor and Taishang

  • Date:2020/03/13

“….Taishang (
台商) that use forced Uyghur laborers in China are likely also exposed to the COVID-19 risk. If this channel is infected as a result, it will become a loophole in Taiwan's epidemic prevention…Taiwan’s health authorities should heed this point ahead of the Tomb Sweeping holiday break, a time when Taiwan business expats in China return home.”
 - Tsun-yen Wang (王尊彥), acting chief
   Division of Non-traditional Security and Military Missions (非傳統安全與軍事任務研究所)

COVID-19, Uyghur Forced Labor and Taishang

The CCP’s push to restart China’s economic engine and its own statistics that very neatly back up the official line that the COVID-19 situation is under control in the world’s most populous country, are at odds with what is still happening: reports of labor shortages, outbreaks of the disease in Chinese prisons, tight medical supplies, foreign staff absences and cluster infections in major cities.

On 8 March 2020, state television CCTV announced the last COVID-19 patient in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had been discharged from the hospital and that there were no further novel coronavirus cases in that far western region. This is the place where investigative reports, citing internal CCP documents and satellite imagery, multi-lateral agencies like the United Nations, and others have sounded the alarm at detention camps and forced labor by Beijing authorities against millions of Muslim Uyghurs.

“Beijing authorities demand that enterprises resume work and production. Xinjiang Uyghurs, who are strictly controlled and are not able to resist, have become the easiest to secure for labor use to support China's precarious economic security,” writes Tsun-yen Wang (王尊彥), acting chief of Division of Non-traditional Security and Military Missions (非傳統安全與軍事任務研究所) in the 13 March 2020 edition of Defense Security Weekly (國防安全周報).
[1] This is an issue that has implications for human rights, economic security and health safety.

Following the recent report of “Uyghurs For Sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang” published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Wang further looked into implications for Taiwan Inc. The controversial forced labor of Uyghurs to make up for the coronavirus-affected labor force in China pose a real threat for Taiwan’s own epidemic prevention and control work, particularly ahead of another major holiday, Wang cautions.

Taishang (台商), or Taiwan enterprises operating factories in the PRC, have long contributed to economic security on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and are a critical part of the global supply chain. These Taiwanese expats travel back and forth frequently for business and during holidays shared by both sides, such as the Lunar New Year and the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Day. Also known as Qingming, the holiday is a four-day weekend in Taiwan in early April that brings families together to pay respects to ancestors, and many go on extended holiday outings as a group.

Wang’s research is the latest by INDSR experts, who have been tracking China’s handling of the COVID-19 week to week. Taken together, they indicate that all is still not well despite rosy propaganda on the epidemic situation from China.

[1] Defense Security Weekly (國防安全周報) is our Chinese-language publication providing longer-form analysis by INDSR experts about news, security issues and trends that develop week to week. Available upon request.