Beijing Winter Olympics: Chinese athletes to wear kit from ‘slave labour’ Xinjiang region

China denies Western accusations that Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang are subjected to rights abuses

Ahmed Aboudouh
Thursday 13 January 2022 14:00 GMT
File photo: A display at the exhibition center for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, 5 February 2021
File photo: A display at the exhibition center for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, 5 February 2021 (Getty Images)

Chinese athletes participating at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics will wear kit made in China’s Xinjiang region, where authorities are accused of detaining more than a million Uyghur Muslims in camps and subjecting them to rights abuses including forced labour.

A factory in Habahe county in Xijnjiang has delivered 2,000 pieces of kit to Beijing, including gloves, ear protectors, and ski suits, according to the South Morning China Post.

Human rights advocates say detainees in Xinjiang are forced to work in local farms and factories, and that the global textile industry is tainted by their slave labour.

Late last month, US President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill banning imports from the Xinjiang region over concerns of forced labour.

In 2020, it was estimated that the Xinjiang region was responsible for 20 per cent of the world’s total supply of cotton and around 85 per cent of China’s total production.

China repeatedly denied the US’s accusation that it is carrying out “genocide” in Xinjiang and that the companies in the region are using forced labour. It says the camps are “re-education” facilities being used to combat terrorism.

A high Chinese official said providing Chinese athletes with their gear from Xinjiang reflects “the quality of raw materials in the region”. He added that the uniforms were “Xinjiang’s contribution to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics”.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin used the “genocide” accusation to have a dig at the US on the 20th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison, calling on Washington to finally shut it down.

Mr Wang said on Wednesday that the continued operation of the prison “a dark chapter” in the world’s human rights record.

“If ever there was a ‘detention camp’ that holds Muslims, it would be Guantanamo Bay,” he added while referring to US claims regarding human rights in Xinjiang.

Tensions between the US and China have risen on several fronts in recent months, most recently over Washington’s decision to stage a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, citing human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and other regions. The UK, Canada, Australia and Japan also said they would not send official delegations to the event, although the athletes will be allowed to compete in the games.

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