Letters to the Editor: Chinese official responds to a Times editorial on cotton from Xinjiang
To the editor: The Times’ editorial supporting a boycott of products made with cotton produced in the Xinjiang region of China embraced the rhetoric of “genocide” and “forced labor” alleged by some individuals and anti-China groups.
There has never been genocide in Xinjiang or forced labor in the region’s cotton fields or any other sector. Such allegations are nothing but attempts to smear and demonize China, undermine security and stability in Xinjiang, weaken the local economy and contain China’s development.
In fact, during the past 40 years or so, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang increased from 5.55 million to 12.8 million. From 2010-18, the Uyghur population increased by 25%, much higher than the 14% growth rate of Xinjiang’s overall population.
Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism. From 1990-2016, attacks by separatists and religious extremists inflicted enormous losses in lives and property.
In response, the Chinese government began undertaking anti-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts. As other countries and regions have done to eradicate extremism, Xinjiang established vocational centers to help trainees obtain the education and skills necessary to find better jobs and incomes. In four years, the region has not seen a single violent terrorist case, leading to stability and economic growth.
The claim that half a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been forced to work in the cotton fields is absurd. Picking cotton is a good-paying job, for which local and migrant workers from neighboring provinces used to travel to Xinjiang during harvest season. This is no different from Mexican workers being granted temporary employment opportunities in California’s agriculture industry. In fact, the Chinese office of the trade group Better Cotton Initiative recently declared that since 2012, it has never found a “single case” of forced labor in Xinjiang. Today, 70% of the cotton in Xinjiang is harvested mechanically. There is no need whatsoever for “forced labor.”
Xinjiang’s cotton industry affects the livelihoods of millions of people. Boycotting the region’s cotton puts their well-being and subsistence at risk and is therefore a gross violation of the human rights of people of all ethnicities, including the Uyghurs.
Zhang Ping, Los Angeles
The writer is consul general of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles.
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