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The factory was set up by Beijing in a bid to help locals out of poverty, an investigative report revealed. However, experts have denounced the “poverty alleviation” scheme, labelling it as “coercive” and saying it often leads to forced labour.
The coronavirus wave was registered on Saturday in the Kashgar region with more than 180 people contracting the disease.
The factory that the outbreak was linked to is located just outside the city of Kashgar, according to Chinese news outlet Caixin.
Local sources who spoke to Caixin described the factory as “densely packed” with workers from local villages.
The “patient zero” of the outbreak, a 17-year-old girl, as well as her parents tested positive for the virus.
Adrian Zenz, a researcher observing Xinjiang has analysed public data and official language related to the scheme.
He said: “This is a village factory that is part of the scheme to put all adult Uighurs and related minorities into low-skilled factory work as part of poverty alleviation.
“Clearly, ‘industry-based poverty alleviation’ is not voluntary but mandatory.
“Those who resist being ‘alleviated’ from their poverty are subjected to ideological education so that their thinking aligns with the state’s goals.”
China has been condemned by the international community for its treatment of Uighur minorities in the region.
Last week, a Canadian parliamentary group ruled that China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs was a genocide.
In a written statement, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development called for sanctions against Chinese officials enforcing the denounced actions.
It wrote: “The Subcommittee unequivocally condemns the persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang by the Government of China.
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“Based on the evidence put forward during the Subcommittee hearings, both in 2018 and 2020, the Subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.”
The Canadian group also called on the international community to condemn China for its actions.
It wrote: “If the international community does not condemn the human rights abuses in Xinjiang province by the Government of China, a precedent will be set, and these methods will be adopted by other regimes.
“Complacency is entrenched by a lack of access to Xinjiang; by the lack of free press; and through the silencing and harassment of Uighurs living abroad.”
China’s foreign minister Zhao Lijian denounced the group over the report which he labelled as “groundless”.
He said the statement was “full of lies and disinformation”.
He added: “This is blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and reflects those Canadian individuals’ ignorance and prejudice.
“China firmly deplores and rejects that. China has repeatedly made clear our stern position on Xinjiang.
“Xinjiang-related issues are not at all about human rights. The so-called genocide in Xinjiang is a rumour and a farce fabricated by some anti-China forces to slander China.”
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