From camps to factories: Muslim detainees say that China uses forced labor

ALMATY: While Gulzira Auelkhan In A Factory In The Troubled Region Of China ' Wrestling, Her Managers Did Not Make A Secret Of Where Her Production Would Be Sold.

They Openly Told The Gloves Are Sold Abroad, So We Need To Do Good Work, Auelkhan Recalled A Labor Stint According To Her Forced By Chinese Re-Education Officials.

Auelkhan, A 39-year-old Chinese Citizen Of Kazakh Descent, Says She Was Part Of A Network Of Predominantly Muslim Minorities In Xinjiang, Which Move From What China Calls" Vocational Training Centers." To Factories Where They Are Forced To Work For Much Less Than The Local Minimum Wage.

China Says Training Centers Are Part Of Its Efforts To Fight Terrorism And Separatism In Xinjiang - A Region Populated By Mostly Islamic Minority Groups - And Denies Any Use Of Forced Labor.

But Rights Groups And Former Workers Such As Auelkhan Say That The Practice Against Chinese Minorities Is Widespread And That At Least One Foreign Company Has Dropped Its Chinese Supplier Over The Concerns.

Auelkhan Says She Has Been Transferred To The Glove Factory At The Jiafang Industrial Park In Xinjiang ' S Yining County After Spending 15 Months In Two Different" Re-education" . Facilities.

More Than A Million Muslim Minority People - Mostly Ethnic Uyghurs, But Also Kazakhs Such As Auelkhan, Kyrgyzstan And Hui - Are Being Held In Internment Centers In Xinjiang, According To A Panel Of Experts From The United Nations.

Auelkhan Has Residence Rights In Kazakhstan, But Had Traveled To China To See Family When She Was Detained And Placed In A Re-education Center.

She Said Life In The Camps Was Brutal, With Residents Beating Up With Electrified Batons For More Than Two Minutes In The Bathroom.

So Although They Weren't Free To Leave, It Was An Improvement When She And Hundreds Of Other Camp Residents Were Transferred To Work In The Factory, Auelkhan Told AFP In Kazakhstan ' S Largest City Almaty.

Every Day We Were Brought To And From A Dormitory Three Miles From The Factory, She Said, Hugging The Five-year-old Daughter She Hadn't Seen For Nearly Two Years.

When We Studied In The Camp, They Told Us That We Would Get A Job And A Job For Three Months, Auelkhan Said.

Auelkhan Said That She Had Only Received 320 Yuan ($ 48/42 Euros) For Almost Two Months. Work Before Her Time Was Restricted In The Factory In December And She Was Returning To Her Family In Kazakhstan.

The Average Minimum Wage Of Xinjiang ' Varies Between 820 And 1,460 Yuan Per Month, According To Official Statistics.

Beijing And Officials In The Region Have Strongly Denied The Connection Between The Camps And Underpaid Labor.

A Representative Of The Government Press Office Of The Xinjiang Autonomous Region Said AFP By Email That There Was No Employment Agreement Between Education And Training Centers And Companies. And No Enterprise Gets Labor From Training Centers.

But Rights Groups Emphasize That There Is A Relationship And Some Companies Have Started Observing.

In January, Badger Sportswear, A Company Based In The US State Of North Carolina, Announced It Would No Longer Buy Clothing From Its Xinjiang Supplier Hetian Taida Because Of Concerns That Forced Labor Had Linked To The Re-education Campaign.

Auelkhan Believes She Was Only Released From Forced Labor Because Of A Public Campaign By Her Husband And Supported By An Xinjiang-focused Rights Group In Almaty.

Originally, Re-education Officials Had Told Her And Other Center Residents That They Would Be" Available" For At Least Six Months, She Said.

The Oil-rich Government Of Kazakhstan ' S Government Is A Beijing Ally That Positions Itself As 'the Buckle'; In China ' Billion Dollar Belt And Road Trade And Investment Agenda, A Strategy For Infrastructure And Development Projects In Asia, Europe And Africa.

Kazakh Diplomats Have Entered Into A Dialogue With Beijing About Xinjiang, Without Publicly Mentioning Or Re-educating The Re-education Centers Or The Policy Of China.

In December, A Representative From The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Kazakhstan Said During A Briefing That China Had Sent More Than 2,000 Ethnic Kazakhs To Kazakhstan As A" Friendly Gesture."

The Ministry Refused Repeated Requests From AFP To Clarify The Comments, Which Many In Kazakhstan Offered Hope That They Could Bring Xinjiang-based Relatives Across The Border To Safety.

For The Masters, However, This Has Been A Crashing False Dawn.

During A Recent Visit To The Almaty Office Of The Ata Jurt Rights Group Supporting Relatives Of The Xinjiang Missing Crowd, AFP Spoke To Several Kazakhs Who Claim That Their Relatives Have Just Exchanged With" Re-education" . For Other Forms Of Detention.

One Of Them, Aibota Janibek, 34, Said Her Sister Kunikei Janibek Called Her From Xinjiang In January After Uncontacted Months To Confirm That She Got A" Assigned Job" . By The State At A Carpet Factory In Shawan Province.

Aibota Janibek Has Since Lost Contact With Her Sister, But Heard From Other Family Members That She Was Transferred From The Carpet Factory To Another Position.

A Family Member Told Me That She Is Now In A Factory That Makes Paper Towels For Airplanes, Janibek Said.

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