First the Uighurs, Now the Tibetans

John Stonestreet, Radio Host and President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

If anyone understands the slogan, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” it’s the Chinese Communist Party. Having imprisoned millions of Uighurs in concentration camps to eradicate their religious and ethnic identity with only a bit of moderate resistance from the rest of the world, Beijing saw what they could get away with. After all, they didn’t even lose the 2022 Winter Olympics!

Now the party is using the same playbook to deal with another troublesome religious and ethnic minority: Tibetans. So far in 2020, Beijing has pushed “more than 500,000 [Tibetan] rural laborers into recently built military-style training centers.”

It’s being called a “vocational training” program, which is Chinese Newspeak for “forced labor.” The goal is to reform “backward thinking,” and turn Tibetan speakers into Chinese ones.

The only way China changes is if it pays a real price, an economic one. If not, Beijing’s “business as usual” will target more religious minorities, including Christians.

Copyright 2020 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.

U.S. to Ban Certain Products Made by Slave Labor in Xinjiang

John Stonestreet, Radio Host and President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security announced it is “cracking down” on products produced by forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province, “where the Chinese government is engaged in systemic human rights abuses against the Uyghur people.”

Among the products being seized and banned are computer parts and cotton products. And this time the DHS is naming names, like Hifei Bitland and Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co., along with other hair and apparel product companies.

This is important news. For one thing, it means the Administration is enforcing Tariff Act provisions prohibiting the import of products made with forced labor. For another, it’s a clear signal to the Chinese Communist regime that it cannot get away scot-free with its genocidal persecution of its Muslim Uighur minority.

Let’s hope that other nations follow suit and bring economic pressure to bear on China. It may be the only way to get China to change its ways.

Copyright 2020 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.

China Uses Forced Labor to Produce Laptops, and We’re Buying Them

John Stonestreet, Radio Host and President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

In his new book, “Unbelievers,” British historian Alec Ryrie observes that the only moral standard people agree on these days is “don’t be like Nazi Germany.” Since firms such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and Bayer used forced labor from concentration camps during World War II, that should mean we could all agree that forced labor is bad.

Tragically, at least if it involves new laptops in time for the new school year, it doesn’t.

Recently, the Intercept reported that Lenovo, the world’s largest manufacturer of laptops, “has imported an estimated 258,000 laptops” built by a certain Chinese manufacturer named Hefei Bitland. Through this manufacturer, Lenovo “participates in a Chinese government program that provides factories with cheap labor from persecuted Uighurs.” “Cheap labor,” in this case, means “forced labor.” The Uighurs providing the labor are concentration camp inmates who cannot refuse the work assignment. 

The U. S. government has singled out Hefei Bitland for violating human rights. Still, even after Hefei Bitland was placed on a government list restricting trade, some of the computers reached American consumers. Lenovo removed a portion of the laptops from distribution, but others were still shipped.

It’s tempting to rationalize using products from forced labor. According to the Associated Press, there is a significant shortage of laptops for American students this school year. Companies like HP, Dell, and, of course, Lenovo blame U.S. sanctions on Chinese suppliers for the shortfall. Some school administrators have adopted a less-rigorous approach to human rights.

One administrator described the situation as “a tough one.” “I’m not condoning child slave labor for computers,” he said, “but can we not hurt more children in the process?”

Is going without a computer for a few months the moral equivalent of child slave labor?

Of course, a shortage of laptops, especially during pandemic-caused education at home, creates serious problems. However, as the Intercept pointed out, this one of many moral pitfalls caused by China’s role in the global supply chain, given their use of forced labor. Global dependence on Chinese manufacturers creates powerful incentives to overlook China’s abysmal treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Uighurs.

One million Uighurs have been put into concentration camps, “separated from their children, prevented from exercising their religion, and subjected to political indoctrination.” Some have also been “forcibly sterilized . . . [and] made to use intrusive birth control methods.” More recently, there have been reports of forced abortions and even infanticide, something members of the American press rightly decried, despite the 600,000+ babies killed each year here in our country are considered women’s rights.

The Chinese campaign against the Uighurs meets the criteria of Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. But, as in the 1930s and 40s, the temptation for companies and consumers to rationalize doing business with the perpetrators of genocide is proving too great to resist. The only real way to avoid global complicity in China’s atrocities is to reduce global dependence on China—just as Japan and India are doing and corporations like Apple are doing.

“Don’t be like Nazi Germany” is good advice, but it is not a firm enough foundation to ground human rights, especially when the atrocities are hidden behind accounting and business practices.

Human rights can only be safely grounded in the Christian idea of the imago dei, which teaches us that we are indeed our brother’s keeper, even if our laptop delivery is delayed.

Copyright 2020 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.