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U.S. to block cotton, tomato product imports from Xinjiang over forced labor (reuters.com)
214 points by abc-xyz 45 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments

Does the US import that many tomato products from China? Most produce will be domestic, Mexican, or Chilean in the off season. Is there significantly tomato processing there?

Same with cotton. If this impacts clothes, that could be significant, but I don't think of China as a big textiles player, and the US still produces a lot of cotton, it just doesn't weave it or make clothes from it.

"We have reasonable but not conclusive evidence that there is a risk of forced labor in supply chains related to cotton textiles and tomatoes coming out of Xinjiang,” Smith said in an interview. “We will continue to work our investigations to fill in those gaps.”

Xinjiang produces 20% of the world's cotton. The reality is, most farmers in Xinjiang are independent entities. They are the little guys. They grow cotton or any other produces on their land, and sell the produces to distributors. Many of these farmers are minority ethnicity, Uighur included, but there are others as well. These people lived in villages and in the country side for generations. Farming and the "primary" sector of the economy is how they make a living for generations. They are the low to middle income bracket of the society. They depend on agriculture to raise families, provide food on the table, raise children, and take care of the elderly in the family. A blanket ban of all cotton produced in this region will devastate the life of these people. Think about it from the perspective of these people. They grew cotton on their farm, and one day they are told "The U.S. stops buying your product because they want to protect you from forced labor", and because of that, you will be out of work. The farmer sits there and think "Wait, I am farming because I need money to feed my families". This ban sounds like its standing with the Uighur people, but in reality, it hurts them the most. Rights to live, rights to livelihood, rights to income and bringing food to the table is also human rights.

Target companies or organizations that actually committed forced labor and present concrete evidence. Maybe require a document of the name of the farmer, require disclosure and certifications of the practices of the producers. There are many ways this could be done to both protect legitimate producers, farmers, and rule out the bad actors. Or at least act like you are trying. A blanket ban blew the covers off of the PR statement this is about protecting human rights and stand with the people. Instead, the actual intent is to suppress the Chinese economy, and prevent the people living there from getting richer and achieve a better quality of life. Its sad that there are people in the world who don't really care about other people's quality of life. They can enjoy themselves a good paying job, nice cloths, good cars etc. While for other people, farming, doing hard, manual and labor intensive work on the farm is all they can ever dream of. And what little they have now will be "taken" away from them.

Given this account's pro-CCP comment history and exclusively commenting on China-specific topics (seriously, nothing else) in its 8 month history, this comment should be taken with a Honda Civic-sized grain of salt.

Is there substance in the comment that strikes you as misleading, an exaggeration or just untrue? If so, you should speak to that instead of not so subtly suggesting that the commenter is a Chinese misinformant, which is against HN guidelines and probably untrue.

This is dilemma of sanctions in general.

Sanctions de-fund an entire export system. Obviously this includes both the workers as well as the higher layers of the industry. If that specific industry is misbehaving according to some standard, it can elevate voices within that industry that can see to that change.

It only works if the change desired is less costly that business profits lost (to the decision makers). Hopefully someone is doing that calculation in DC. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't because they simply find a different buyer, and other times it's not even meant to work - it's just a virtue signal and hand out to domestic producers.

>“We have reasonable but not conclusive evidence that there is a risk of forced labor in supply chains related to cotton textiles and tomatoes coming out of Xinjiang,” Smith said in an interview. “We will continue to work our investigations to fill in those gaps.”


>In March, U.S. lawmakers proposed legislation that would effectively assume that all goods produced in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and would require certification that they are not.

These sanctions are an of extension XPCC / bingtuan sanctions from a few weeks ago. The organizations run XJ agriculture. Ultimately they're kind whatever, XJ tomatoes are <1B export and will be redirected for internal consumption. 40-50B of cotton will be washed through SEA producers. In terms of human rights, the reality is the ag workers particularly Uyghurs are going to suffer more after XPCC sanctions - primarily because region can't import superior US agricultural equipment. So they'll just end up working the people harder. Obviously US equipment producers will also lose out. Decouple is expensive, SMIC lose 4B, PSI loses 100B. The question is whether these moves are smart and within stated interests. Regardless, hope the bar for more significant escalation, particular military ones, is based on more conclusive findings, but you never know with election politics.

> the reality is the ag workers particularly Uyghurs are going to suffer more after XPCC sanctions - primarily because region can't import superior US agricultural equipment

Could you tell more about "superior agricultural equipment"? I have only heard about tractors with DRM, but I assume, that you meant something else.

From what I read, John Deere harvesters have lower error rates and better efficiency than domestic machines which makes significant difference in cotton production.

On DRM note, wonder if they're going to be forced to disable existing machines in the region. That would be interesting. I think half of the cotton production occurs in other provinces, so there's a loophole for more parts and supplies if hacktivists can overcome geo locks or other restrictions. Maybe John Deere will be incentivized to sell DRM free systems.

Pretty weak response from the US considering China actually have huge forced labor camps.

How about even stronger sanctions?

I guess the US is now so dependent on China that they can't?

At least this US administration is standing up and doing something about it. Do you see the Germany chancellor sanctioning for Xinjiang concentration labor camps? UK prime minister? French president? Japanese prime minister?

Another reason this current administration's hands are tied because it's an election year. And wall street has already raised more money for democrats this past few months than republicans, because of the anti-China stance.

This administration messed up any opportunity to curtail China by dropping TPP.

Everything they’ve done since then is a fraction of the massive gift they gave the Chinese.

Heck, even the Chinese know what a joke this administration is which is why they basically captured Hong Kong, are trying to destroy Vietnam, extracting as much from Australia and India as they can in the past year while the going is good with the administration.

Also, comparing to Germany, a country with a population less than 20% of the US’s which has basically no standing army by design, and hosts massive American bases within it is a complete non sequitur.

Why don’t you compare to India, for example, which within weeks of a small border skirmish pretty much eliminated the entirety of Chinese digital companies from the country. Setting aside the wisdom of that decision, if you’re just comparing the actions taken by administrations, India has done far more in far less time that has been far more effective than throwing random tantrums after Xi refused to bribe your President enough.

> This administration messed up any opportunity to curtail China

Companies are stepping over each other to move factories out of China. Just check chinalawblog. Any sane COO is de-risking right now. And what about Pompeo's speech? tariffs? banning wechat? supporting Taiwan? There's an endless list of this administration actions trying to curtail China.

> dropping TPP.

TPP was still an IF still when 2017 rolled around.

> Chinese know what a joke this administration is which is why they basically captured Hong Kong, are trying to destroy Vietnam, extracting as much from Australia and India

China is making stupid mistakes after mistakes. It managed to piss off almost every surrounding neighbors: South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, etc. It is basically at war with India right now. And US, Canada, UK, France, and some EU countries are in conflict with China as well. Just recently, even Germany, one of its last ally in Europe has condemned China publically for the czech republic situation

China is so knee deep in trouble, with internal top leadership conflict, coronavirus, job losses, suffering trade, flooding, food shortage, that it has no choice but to establish internal "order" with inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet. But it is messing up there too.

> Also, comparing to Germany, a country with a population less than 20% of the US

That's just dishonest hand waving. Everyone knows Germany leads the EU.

> Why don’t you compare to India

China literally killed Indian soldiers - an act of war. There's no comparison here. And again, this is election year. This US administration cannot piss off every US companies by an absolute economic sanction on China.

> with internal top leadership conflict

Source? My understanding is Xi has pretty effectively consolidated power, and such internal struggles would be pretty opaque to everyone who doesn't have access to a well-connected CCP member.

It does look like they're expecting a period of increased isolation in the future though: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/business/china-xi-economy...


Companies are moving their manufacturing out of China, they were before covid and it’s accelerating now. However companies are definitely going to want to sell the the gigantic and growing Chinese market, if they can. This is especially true the longer covid keeps western economies shit down.

> companies are definitely going to want to sell the the gigantic and growing Chinese market

Tons of companies have had that same dream in the last 40 years, before China gets old in 2050, before China became nationalist in 2018. Companies like KFC, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Samsung, Nintendo, Home Depot, Mattel, Ebay.

A lot of your complaints could have been the US at various times. And we're still here.

The US basically owns the printing press that they can run for free that other people need to earn for with hard labor. So comparing any country to US is not right - US can make a lot of mistakes and still feel zero repercussions.

Mind give an estimate when China will collapse?

^ wherein @jonathannat discovers that the US liberal establishment lives in an impenetrable bubble inside which no one can say that the Trump administration is doing something right.

This administration is “tough” on China only because the Chinese haven’t agreed to illegally help them with their re-election efforts, and because blaming China for Covid19 is a convenient diversion from the abject failure of the US federal response, and plays nicely to its supporters’ racism and xenophobia.

According to Bolton’s book, when Trump met Xi he praised the Chinese treatment of Uighurs, and begged Xi for help (to borrow Trump’s favorite description, “he begged him like a dog”).


This goes along with Trump’s at-least-monthly private phone calls and meetings with Putin where he gets his next instructions, his (as he personally described them) “love letters” to and from Kim Jong Un, his praise for Balsonaro, Erdogan, Orbán, Duda, Prince Salman, Netanyahu, and so on.

The idea that the administration wants to stick it to the Chinese as a way to defend human rights and democracy is ludicrous on its face.

The TPP was also a deeeeeee-saster, it amounted to a mega-corp giveaway and one of the most egregious things to the HN crowd at the time was imposing America’s draconian copyright laws on all signatory countries. Frankly I was surprised Obama wanted it as part of his legacy.

> This administration messed up any opportunity to curtail China by dropping TPP

All major candidates of the 2016 election intended to end TPP, so it was dead either way. Only Obama sought to pursue it. To act like it wasn't dead is misinformation

This is very disingenuous.

I went back and read Clinton's position, which was that the concept of the US pivoting to the Pacific Rim vis a vis trade was critical but that TPP lacked some additional measures she wanted (ex. stronger measures against currency manipulation).

I don't think Trump ever articulated a cogent policy position on TPP at all. He did have plenty of his usual free association ranting, though, like:

> "And the Obama Trans-Pacific Partnership and fast track are a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers. It’s a huge set of handouts for a few insiders that don’t even care about our great, great America."

My statement was not disingenuous. She opposed it after they finalized the text, so it doesn't matter what she wished it had before it was finalized. It also matters when you're researching that you look at the date, because she was pro-TPP under Obama but anti-TPP as a candidate

> Then, last fall, once the 12 participating nations announced they had finalized the text after years of negotiations, Clinton said she opposes it -- citing its lack of a crackdown on currency manipulation and provisions to extend pharmaceutical drug companies' patent protections in poorer countries.

And in here words during a debate:

> "I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard," Clinton said at an October debate with Sanders. "It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn't meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, 'This will help raise your wages.' And I concluded I could not."

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/27/politics/tpp-what-you-need-to...

> This administration messed up any opportunity to curtail China by dropping TPP

Do you really think 5,600 pages of fresh red tape would have been beneficial long term for the US? The TPP was essentially locking the US into an agreement where a bunch of smaller countries could mooch off of the US economy of scale.

The other countries in the negotiations have a similar population to the US (hell, just Japan, Mexico and Vietnam combined do). Having that many people prefer trade with the US, with a legal framework written by the US (instead of China) probably wouldn't have hurt the US.

The treaty would have tended to favor larger US corporations and not US people (because that's what US "IP" laws do), but it wouldn't have been bad for the US economy.

The difference is that we buy all the crap they make, not the other way around. Not to mention we spend more on the military than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil - combined[1]. That can be a very compelling negotiation tool.

Also, I don't think globalization is a good thing. I agree it would be good for the US economy short term, but really would just lead to turning the world into the equivalent of this pic: https://www.alamy.com/stock-image-american-culture-fast-food...

[1] - https://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison

Biden also called Xi a “thug” in the debates. This is definitely as strong a rhetoric as the current administration. However, like you mention, countries like India have a better response and more teeth than US.

I think that people are nervous that legitimate complaints about China may be a subterfuge to start some sort of bizarre conflict so the President can use 'rally-round-the-flag' as a way to boost re-election prospects.

>And wall street has already raised more money for democrats this past few months than republicans, because of the anti-China stance.

That's not why and you (probably) know it. In the off chance you don't: anti-China sentiment is popular among both parties. Pelosi has been chastising Trump publicly for delaying Chinese sanctions.


While I agree that others should act, let's refrain from whataboutisms here. It is important to remember that, for the public, a lot of this has only come to light within the last year. And the public still believes the west needs China more than China needs the west. Plus there's the old Eddie Izzard joke.

> let's refrain from whataboutisms here

For economic sanctions to have their intended effect you need participation from a lot of countries so this doesn't feel appropriate to dismiss as a whataboutism

This is ludicrous interpretation. Here's Trump approving Uighur concentration camps during a private meeting with Xi: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53138833

Regardless if you think Trump is actively or passively supporting Russia, leaving Russia to do as it will while stoking America vs China fires is a key pillar to Russian geopolitics. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics) “China, which represents a danger to Russia, "must, to the maximum degree possible, be dismantled””

Anything that hurts China and also the US while also ignoring Russia’s actions is, again knowingly or not, playing the exact hand they’d prefer the US to play.

You could also say that eg. Germany is now tied between picking the most trustful partner and that the current us administration is at least "doubtful".

While Chinese sanctions could be applied easier when partnerships are strong. It's hard to go "all-in" while the be administration is dropping a lot of agreements, just because they were made by the previous president.

Countries like China and Russia are trying to make the most advantage now they can.

To be fair Germany seems hellbent on making itself completely dependent on an evil, totalitarian regime (Mother Russia), while neglecting its NATO obligations. I wouldn't say they are setting a great example.

Good grief that's quite the response. US is responding more than any other country and you say "well they could do better"? Progress should be praised, not criticized for not doing enough.

My own country is sadly not responding anywhere near to the level the US is.

I rarely wish I was American, but this strong stance against the CCP and it's horrific cruelties is one of those times I stand with America.

When it comes to food, China import food from other countries, just because they have a lot people and not enough food.


It is weak but it's a good minimum. They're banning any product that might have been made from forced labor, which at least sends the message that the US won't be seen as complicit.

But agreed, I hope to see stronger sanctions soon.

I would find this more compelling if you gave examples or countries that had a stronger response, otherwise I don't see a reason to criticize this move.

There's a pretty big contigent of people in the USA who claim that any sort of sanctions against China are "sinking to their level" and will just hurt the poor factory employees, or that it's just Trump being racist and making up political reasons to hurt Chinese people.

I wonder if the same group of people would also be against boycotts of large companies because they would hurt individual workers?

I don't think it's about dependence. It's just hard to drum up political support given the geopolitics of the situation. Remember that it's only Western countries plus (including?) Japan who even say that there's a problem - much of Africa and the Middle East, including a huge fraction if not a majority of the world's Muslims, explicitly endorse China's actions in Xinjiang. It's not like apartheid, where the country might actually become a pariah if we can just organize against it; most of the world doesn't think China's doing anything wrong.

Not really, most of these countries ( African, Middle East and Pakistan ) don’t speak out because their economies depend on it (Belt and Road initiative). None of them have the stability to withstand economic sanctions against them by the Chinese.

I'm skeptical. Many of those same countries regularly speak out against the US, despite the clear economic advantage of staying friendly with Washington.

But even if it's true that China's just bullied a bunch of countries into being complicit, their complicity still does make a push for sanctions harder.

There's a clear distinction between the U.S. Government and the CCP. There's valid opposition and differing opinions _within_ Washington. The same cannot be said of CCP.

Infamous whistleblowers of the U.S. Government/Washington regularly get airtime. When was the last time you heard of a Snowden/Manning from the CCP?

Why and what would Pakistan speak out??

> much of Africa and the Middle East, including a huge fraction if not a majority of the world's Muslims, explicitly endorse China's actions in Xinjiang

The US condemns the use of forced labor to produce cotton.

What's your point? Slavery was abolished a long time ago in the US. Any pressure to stop enslavement or forced labor of humans should be celebrated.

> Slavery was abolished a long time ago in the US

No, it wasn't.

Chattel slavery was converted almost overnight into penal slavery, with largely pretextual criminalization of the exact same group previously subject to chattel slavery, a long time ago in the United States.

You're right.

We can go buy slaves today in the US. /s

Yes, criminalization of legal acts to recapture the free labor is abhorrent. However, passing the 13th amendment and then fighting a civil war to enforce it at least creates an incredibly strong legal footing for defending people from forced labor.

Criminals paying back their debt to society is a different conversation in terms of the length and harshness of the penality.

> We can go buy slaves today in the US

No, slaves you can buy as an individual is what you have with chattel slavery.

Slaves whose labor you can rent, or the product of whose labor you can buy, from the state who holds them as convicts (or that the state uses directly for it's own purposes under the same conditions) is what you have with penal slavery.

> However, passing the 13th amendment and then fighting a civil war to enforce it

That...didn't happen. In fact, the Republicans, despite being an ideologically abolitionist party, didn't pursue abolition as a policy, merely limiting (not even stopping) the geographic expansion of slavery, specifically to avoid splitting the union and provoking a civil war.

I love these pendantic HN comments. Everyone else in the thread is referring to chattel slavery when they use the word "slavery", but you feel a need to point out how it isn't technically correct.

Great. We're all still talking about the same thing still.

> Everyone else in the thread is referring to chattel slavery when they use the word "slavery"

And here I thought everyone was referring to an American practice analogous to the Chinese state forced labor of those who have been deemed harmful to society; while chattel slavery is, I suppose, loosely analogous there, I'd say penal slavery is actually a closer analogy.

Don't forget forced sterilization: https://apnews.com/269b3de1af34e17c1941a514f78d764c The attitude of someone who reacts to this with "what about the antebellum south!" is beyond my understanding.

So China had a one child policy that only applied to Han Chinese, which is the dominant ethnic group of the country.

Now they relaxed the requirement to 2 and applied it to everyone. Of course it's now immediately a genocide. The previous one, despite harsher limits and usage of the same methods, is evidently not.

From the linked article: "The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands"

Maybe the article is mistaken? It seems like quite a bit more than just applying a one-child policy.

> abortion on hundreds of thousands

There are 10 million Uyghurs in China. Abortion on hundreds of thousands is quite literally the abortion of the whole population. And hundreds of thousands will be able to attest to this. I have no doubt that China violated a bunch of human rights to enforce the 2 child policy, but calling it a genocide of the Uighur, and then exaggerating or filling in the data by imagination is rich given that it was harsher before and nobody voiced a peep just because it didn't apply to minorities.

I don't like what China is doing, it's probably entirely justified to sanction Xinjiang and the camps. Nobody should have their freedom restricted just because they were born different and believe in different things. But at the same time propaganda outlets manufacturing consent is also disgusting.

It's not inconceivable that Uighur human rights abuses are being used for political purposes. Certainly a healthy dose of skepticism is not uncalled for. Yet the people who respond to such reports with outraged knee-jerk accusations of hypocrisy against the US because it had slavery in the 1860s or because it has forced labor in some prisons today--I don't understand that.

I didn't bring up slavery or any US internal issues at all - it's entirely worthless to this discussion.

What I'm trying to say, is that truth matters. We can't just level unfounded claims because it's convenient, that's how you devolve into a nationalist flame war, with the military industrial complex giggling in the background.

Totally agree that "US internal issues" bring nothing valuable to this discussion. Also agree that truth matters. I don't think that can be said enough these days. My comment about the discussion of slavery/prison inmates was referencing the root post of this thread, and some of the other responses.

The thirteenth amendment explicitly permits subjecting prisoners to forced or unpaid labor, and this aspect of it is used extensively in the United States.

Slavery didn't end in 1865. It's still with us - just a bit out of sight, out of mind.

This is not stopping any enslavement or forced labor, in China or elsewhere.

> What's your point?

It is ironic and amusing.


When folks bring up China of today, other folks like to deflect by bringing up US of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago, or 200 years ago. And use the same social and moral context from those era to judge.

I have found too that people get mad if you happen to bring up Germany of 50 years ago though

So much so that we fought a titanic war with hundreds of thousands if not millions of casualties to end it!

And it's right to. We fought a civil war over this. (and other issues, of course.) Please don't trivialize this topic with infantile tu quoque arguments.

The US has consistently fought against using forced labor to produce cotton since 1861.

blacks are vastly overrepresented in the prison population and NYC just forced them to bury COVID bodies with scarce protection.

No source, not relevant anyway

Your source directly contradicts your claim

> prisoners have been digging graves on Hart Island for years

This isn’t really COVID related. Additionally, they are digging graves not necessarily burying bodies.

> is offering prisoners at Rikers Island jail $6 per hour... and personal protective equipment

So they get paid and have personal protective equipment.

Perhaps more relevant is the fact that there have been over a thousand instances of slavery in Florida tomato farms in the past decade

I dislike internet flamewars with glib calls for "source pls", but this seems like a pretty extraordinary claim to make with no substantiating evidence. Over 1000? According to who? I found this wapo article from 2012: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fair-food-program-he... It says the justice dept prosecuted 7 cases since 1997. It says over 1000 people were affected. Are you counting each person as an instance?

Why wouldn't you count a human being held in slavery as an instance of slavery? I'm genuinely confused what you're getting at here.

I'm not saying you shouldn't. I'm just trying to get some clarification on the original statement. The source I was able to dig up is from 8 years ago, and was reporting on incidents stretching back 23 years ago. The op mentioned 1000 instances in the past 10 years. I just want more info on what they meant.

Ok, but you easily dug up an article that confirmed it. Even down to the number of people who were affected and the time period. But instead of just posting the source (which I do appreciate), you seem to now have a problem with the definition of the word "instance" as used to refer to the enslavement of a single human. What definition would you prefer that is more standard or appropriate?

ETA I am now reading article after article about this issue, and the fact that this particular industry seems to have cleaned up its act in 2012 doesn't make me feel better about any of it.

Doesn't make you feel any better about the original claim or about the fact that the abuses took place?

To your first point: I have a problem with the unsourced claim that there have been 1000 instances in the past 10 years, which I could not find a source to confirm. To your second about which term I would prefer, I don't set myself up as an authority. But if the op meant 1000 people, he should have said 1000 people. I think it would be clearer than "instance." When I first read that, I wasn't sure if it means "a person" or "a case when a tomato farmer got busted." If the latter, then it would have been way more than 1000 people affected.

A person being enslaved seems like a perfectly reasonable definition of an "instance of slavery." You turned up a source that seemed broadly consistent with this, and inconsistent with the "1,000 farmer busts" reading. Then you asked if the person was counting each person as an instance, which clearly they were. That's why I asked what the problem was.







You should read the HN guidelines before making claims about how horrific they are.


To the people reading this thread after the parent commenter deleted their comment, they equated questioning genocide to inciting a flamewar, and argued that there were two sides to the debate on ethnic cleansing. Apparently engaging in debate against those comments was also in contravention of this site's guidelines, which the poster linked.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24415282.

To compare a prison in the US to "labor camps" in China is intellectually dishonest.


It's a very incomplete comparison. What have the Uighurs done to merit their imprisonment?


I mean, imprisonment itself is a pretty severe restriction. If you're proposing that even deserving criminals should be treated as well as you and I, I don't have a tremendously convincing refutation, other than to note that it implies much more radical changes than simply ending prison labor.

The conversation is about the treatment of Uighurs in China, and the US reaction to it, no? If anything, I'm reacting to an attempted derailment of the conversation by comparing it to the (flawed) prison system of another country.

Of all the problems to fix with the US prison system, forced labor is so far down the list anyway. And yes, I do believe in consequences for actions, as do most people over the age of 25.

"I do believe in consequences for actions, as do most people over the age of 25."

Of course- there can be no well-considered arguments for things like prison abolition. No, even considering the idea of such a thing means you're too naive. When people break the rules, they need to have consequences- and, of course, those consequences must be "being locked in a cell". Nothing else is possible. Don't show me the data- don't show me the recidivism rates- don't show me the thinking. That's all just crazy. Grow up. Nothing can ever meaningfully change. We must only fine-tune our existing system- the structure, the heart of it all, is unquestionable, absolute, no less so that the divine right of kings. Can't you see that? After all of human history, we've finally figured things out. Don't question it. Moloch is powerful hungry, after all. We need to do what we've always done. Everybody agrees on that. Better things are childish fantasies. Don't dare question the hegemony, kid. Be realistic, we say, closing our eyes, developing new adaptive noise cancellation to blot out the sounds of the child in the basement, God have mercy we need to be realis

But maybe in a few years we'll, say, legalize weed. Would definitely keep a lot of non-violent people out of jail, and that's definitely something. Maybe by 2050 we'll have cut inmate labor by 10%. I think that's a fair compromise.

My views are a lot more nuanced than the straw man you put together here. I don't disagree with some of the things you've said. I was simply declaiming the false equivalency between incarceration of convicted criminals and the persecution of a purple based ENTIRELY on ethnicity. I get the the justice system is tilted in a similar way. It's a combination of personal and systemic racism. But matching people into concentration camps on trains is qualitatively different, and we can't lose sight of that.

Labor in US prison definitely can be considered as forced / slave. The actual conditions most likely are better than in China (or should I say not fucked up to the same degree) but it is still amounts to slave labor, especially as it relies on private prisons whose owners would do anything to get their money (Kids for cash scandal proves how far they would go)

I'll allow that American prisons leave a lot to be desired but comparison to the Xinjiang camps is really quite inappropriate. Labor in American prisons is paid, optional, and conducted safely, while the Chinese camps are actively working to destroy a minority's cultural heritage through torture, rape, ideological brainwashing, organ harvesting, arbitrary imprisonment without a trial, forced relocation, forced sterilization, destruction and confiscation of property, and extreme levels of surveillance.

Just to raise awareness about this (not trying to be nitpicky, sorry) labor in american prisons is typically unpaid (or might as well be, sometimes paying less than $1/hr) and not optional as the 13th ammendemnt specifically allows slavery as a punishment. JCPenny uses american prison labor to market their jeans as made in america, and I believe mcdonalds uniforms are made with prison labor. Netflix has a very good documentary on this, I'd recommend it (as long as you're willing to be very sad about it for at least a few days) https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741

For reference the 13th ammendment reads "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

But the rest of your post is correct.

> But the rest of your post is correct.

Won't say that, there are quite a bit of unsubstantiated claims in that message supported only by few individuals and organizations paid by the CIA.

There’s testimonies of actual Uighurs who have described what goes on in these camps- are they now CIA plants?

Do you have evidence of this? Both of you made bold claims that citations would help with.

Not as bold as the claims of millions of Uyghurs being detained:


All of his claim can more or less be trace backed to Adrian Zenz, who is a 'Senior Fellow of China Studies' at Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. If the name was not immediately telling, it was set up and paid for by the US government.

I'll agree that American prisons aren't as bad as the Chinese practices but it's a very long way from what would be seen as reasonable in much of the world.

When you say paid for example, the prisoners aren't paid statutory minimum wage, and don't have access to outside prices, so both how much they get paid (often less than a dollar per hour), and how much things cost them to buy with this money are both controlled by the same people controlling their labour, a recipe for abuse.

As to "optional" many convicts don't seem to agree with you about how "optional" their labour actually is. Convict labour makes the private owners a lot of money, so from their point of view a prisoner who won't work is a problem and problem prisoners get punished. US prisons routinely use harsh psychological measures such as long periods of solitary confinement that would be considered torture elsewhere - without meaningful oversight.

And finally "safety" is very much in the eye of the beholder. The relevant US agency simply doesn't collect any safety data about prisoners, reasoning that since work is part of the punishment for a crime of which they were duly convicted† it doesn't matter if they're injured or die as part of that punishment... after all the US still has capital punishment, deliberately killing prisoners is actually part of the "justice" system.

† Of course one of many other things wrong with the US criminal justice system is that some of these people never committed a crime, the lack of a sane pre-trial bail mechanism in most of the US means if you're facing prosecution you have to plead guilty to get out quicker if you're poor...

I’m going to tell you a secret that maybe you don’t understand - these tomatoes will be exported to another country and then imported to the US minus the extra costs.

That extra cost might make tomato exporting to the US unprofitable.

> I’m going to tell you a secret

It is not a secret, and people working in US government agencies are not stupid, they know about this scheme and a thousand others.

It's just a funny way to say. You're killing the humor here.

Being patronising is hardly humorous.

Tomatoes are definitely fungible, but they're unlikely to be trans-shipped as you describe. The strategy you described was used to 'launder' metals through Canada, and the USA caught on, then applied tariffs against Canada.

I'm going to tell you a secret that maybe you don't understand - unless the third party country is turning the tomatoes into pasta sauce, that would be an illegal diversion through transshipment. This is among the sort of thing the Commerce Department watches for, and they will seize the entire shipment.

Now, I don't know how seriously they're going to police tomatoes, but it's certainly not as simple as making a stop over in Manila.

In the case of sanctions against Iran, the monitoring includes not just tracking AIS transponders, and satellite surveillance, but actual naval groups in the Persian Gulf.

They will just get canned elsewhere relabeled and sent here. People are thinking fresh tomatoes where most likely these are used to make ketchup or tomato sauce

Another good reason to buy local produce and demand to know country of origin/manufacture before buying things... vote with your wallet.

That might be possible with tomatoes, that you buy in stores. Frustratingly it's basically impossible with everything bought online these days. Trying to figure out whether, say, a hdmi cord sold on Amazon came from Taiwan or China is practically impossible.

Hence the need for the U.S. to adopt country of origin requirements for ecommerce like India.


Certainly seems like a pro consumer move but has there been any impact of this on sales of these products.

Consumers will buy something that gives them good value at a cheap price.

For a lot of products it is not even the cost factor, like mechanical keyboards. Somehow the best ones are either brands from there itself like Varmilo or made there like Leopold.

I certainly know people who buy based on location, but I don't know if it's a large enough portion of the market to matter.

Another one -- How will anyone know where in China the imports are from ? I am sure our imports from Manchuria will increase. What is stopping China from hiding the source. The ban should be from all of China, singling out one region will do nothing.

What’s the difference between forced labor in China, vs prisoner firefighter in California?

One involves imprisonment with no chance of release with potential torture, the other is allowed free after their jail term. I don't understand your comparison?

Exactly, in the US you are left at the mercy of cruel jailors who will torture you


You'll be forced to work and live in prisons overrun by the pandemic


Even if you're released, you'll be jailed right away if the battery of your electronic monitor will ran out


Tt'll be though rebuilding your life, since employment opportunities are denied to ex-inmates, and thanks to probation fees, you'll be saddled with debts hard to pull away from.


Ultimately, if you fail to repay those fees, you'll be jailed again. The system works wonderfully... for the for-profit prisons


The US is a modern day dystopia, and I don't think that anyone seriously thinks that China's prison system is as bad as the US'

I do think it's worse. You certainly do not get a lawyer, and you sure as shit do not get the right to a fair trial in china.

You might want to educate yourself:


It's far from perfect, but better than in the US

> The criminal representation rate now is generally said to be somewhere between 30-50%.

Last I checked, in the US, every person is entitled to representation. You want to argue that a country without a separate independent judiciary is capable of producing fairer outcomes for individuals without political collusion?

tehjoker 45 days ago [flagged]

tbh, I'm not sure if I believe the allegations. Most of the most serious assertions have come from people connected to the CIA and the various Radio Free * newsources that come from the state department. Very few of these stories are independently verified and the numbers claimed are comical. Of 11M people, they claim 3M are in camps. A friend of mine's sister just visited XJ and said it was fine. You can't hide 3M people out of 11M. Given the anti-China stance of the ruling class right now, I am extremely skeptical of various scurrilous claims being bandied about. The US routinely lies about official enemies and has for decades (nay centuries), so their record should speak for itself. A recent example is the Iraq War and WMD. Another famous example is the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

For example, the US news reported that the UN had condemned the practices in XJ, but in fact it was one US person on one commission that didn't represent the UN as a whole. The US media has to do more than mere assertion. In any case, the current fascist US regime has little credibility on human rights issues given their open support for police murders and various policies of ripping children away from travelers and imprisoning them.

I'd like to say show me the evidence, but unfortunately when I try to read chinese government documents or political discourse I am befuddled by my inability to read chinese. :-/ Note how many US reporters on these stories cannot either.


I believe that accusing someone of being a shill is against HN rules.

@phist_mcgee Here's my read of the same comment:

- The commenter is skeptical of the quality of Western media

- Commenter provides an anecdotal data point, which is by definition not reliable but provides some grounds for skepticism

- Human rights abuses have been and still are an issue in the United States. I would argue here that the comparison to China is facile at best but I understand the point being made.

You may have some strong counter arguments but starting off by accusing the commenter of being a "PLA" or "CCP" agent is undermining them.

Here is a reference for when this last came up https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24382203

pldr1234 45 days ago [flagged]

Yet actually being a shill is not? That's quite the lopsided rule set.

Of course it is. How on earth did you get to that conclusion?

I don't think you get it. Where does this person explicitly say they are being paid or otherwise being compensated for their opinion? You don't just get to decide that someone is a shill because you dislike their opinion.

I sure do get to decide that they are a shill based upon my perception of their post, their post history, and the manner in which they post. My opinion is that this person is part of china's disinformation campaign against western criticism of that country's policies. If that person is not a paid or unpaid shill, they are still serving the purpose to shill china and their framing of the debate.

Not on HN, please. Some people have different backgrounds than you and it leads them to have different views than you and different post histories than you. HN is a much more diverse site than readers assume it is. This is often a perfectly legit thing, and you don't get to harass someone merely because of your perception. Innocent users have been hounded off this site that way—which is mob behavior, and something that none of us wants. I'm sure you don't want it, either, so please follow the rules in the future.

The rule is that you can't make insinuations about astroturfing or shillage without some sort of evidence. Another user having different views than yours—even when you find them wrong, or even perversely wrong—does not count as evidence.




I get accused of all sorts of things because we enforce this policy straight down the middle. Guess what: I'm not a secret communist agent. I just don't like mobs.

Thanks dang. I do not think you are a chinese shill. But I do think your neutrality makes this site suffer, and I do think that there is a right and wrong side of this debate. You may think you are honourable in choosing neutrality, but I think in the end, you are enabling policies that hurt human beings under the guise of free speech.

I'm extremely glad they are not willing to censor speech for political reasons. There are dozens of other topics at least as controversial as the Xinjiang issue. Should we censor particular opinions on those as well? It's not tenable or healthy.

I'd also like to thank dang for upholding the values of evidence, logic, diversity and respect that distinguishes HN from the mob mentality, flame wars and general toxicity that is social media.

I'm not "choosing neutrality". That's not the issue nor how we think about it.

The issue is that HN has guidelines that people need to adhere to. It's not ok to break those, no matter how right your side is or you feel it is. Moreover, there's no need to, because you can make a much better case for your side by following them.

Read the guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

"Please don't post insinuations about astroturfing, shilling, brigading, foreign agents and the like. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about abuse, email hn@ycombinator.com and we'll look at the data."

You can believe what you want, obviously. But understand without evidence, your claims are baseless.

The correct procedure is to email the mods if someone is suspected of being a shill.

I agree. I've not seen a single piece of indisputable evidence - virtually everything has been "take our word for it" or some indistinct satellite photo of a building.

Considering that an anti-China stance is part of Trump's strategy, and intelligence agencies have been caught lying countless times (e.g. Iraq's WMD) to further their agenda, there's no good reason to believe these accusations.

The Chinese are certainly a totalitarian regime, and it is certain that the people of Xinjiang are not in a good state, and there are certainly political prisoners there. But, as you mentioned, the numbers I've heard of 1-2 million prisoners (there are 10 million Uyghurs in total) in concentration camps and slave labor etc seem extremely exaggerated. Pretty much everyone in china has a phone with a camera, including Uyghurs. You'd think at least a few videos of indisputable evidence would be leaked. If you want to accuse a nation of a holocaust, you must have strong evidence.

And on a tangential note, the US has the world's largest prison population, at 22% of the world's prisoners, and a disproportionate number are black. The Chinese could also spin the situation and say that the Americans are running concentration camps for blacks and be on similar footing.

People mistake the frequency and breadth of repetition of a narrative as a measure of truth value, and the three letter agencies take advantage of this human bias, hence the downvotes for your salient comment. It's not easy to take a contrarian stance in these times.

Pretty sure there is no such thing as indisputable evidence. What evidence would suffice for you though?

I could have said "anything but circumstantial weak evidence" and my point would have been the same.

Take a look at the "UN report" that was referenced in the article. It looks like they just interviewed 8 villagers in different villages to estimate the number of people being detained and extrapolated that to all of Xinjiang. Any evidence less handwavy than that would be a good start.


> Any evidence less handwavy than that would be a good start.

There are leaked Chinese government documents:



Satellite photos:



Open source Chinese government documents, such as budgets and construction bids:


But if that's not good enough, please organize an independent investigation team to go to Xinjiang and find out, and tell me how that goes.

It behooves the accusers to provide solid evidence, not the audience.

I don't see anything in your links that shows much evidence of slave labor or millions in concentration camps.

> It behooves the accusers to provide solid evidence, not the audience.

Is that supposed to be response to this?

>> But if that's not good enough, please organize an independent investigation team to go to Xinjiang and find out, and tell me how that goes.

If it was, then I'll spell out what was meant by my sarcasm: the Chinese government won't allow anyone to conduct a systematic independent investigation, and are quite capable of fatally interfering with such a project. If you set your standard so high as to either require such an investigation or a confession, you've conveniently put yourself in a position to unreasonably deny almost crime or violation anyone's made an attempt to hide.

> I don't see anything in your links that shows much evidence of slave labor or millions in concentration camps.

Estimates vary on the exact total population of the camps, but the lowest credible ones I've seen have been in several hundreds of thousands.


> Accounts from the region, satellite images and previously unreported official documents indicate that growing numbers of detainees are being sent to new factories, built inside or near the camps, where inmates have little choice but to accept jobs and follow orders....

> Independent accounts from inmates who have worked in the factories are rare. The police block attempts to get near the camps and closely monitor foreign journalists who travel to Xinjiang, making it all but impossible to conduct interviews in the region. And most Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang did so before the factory program grew in recent months.

> But Serikzhan Bilash, a founder of Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights, an organization in Kazakhstan that helps ethnic Kazakhs who have left neighboring Xinjiang, said he had interviewed relatives of 10 inmates who had told their families that they were made to work in factories after undergoing indoctrination in the camps....

> “It’s not as though they have a choice of whether they get to work in a factory, or what factory they are assigned to,” said Darren Byler, a lecturer at the University of Washington who studies Xinjiang and visited the region in April.

> He said it was safe to conclude that hundreds of thousands of detainees could be compelled to work in factories if the program were put in place at all of the region’s internment camps....

> The documents detail plans for inmates, even those formally released from the camps, to take jobs at factories that work closely with the camps to continue to monitor and control them. The socks, suits, skirts and other goods made by these laborers would be sold in Chinese stores and could trickle into overseas markets.

> Kashgar [a city with a population of over 500,000], an ancient, predominantly Uighur area of southern Xinjiang that is a focus of the program, reported that in 2018 alone it aimed to send 100,000 inmates who had been through the “vocational training centers” to work in factories, according to a plan issued in August.

Someone needs to create a github repo that collects primary source information documenting crimes against the Uighur population.

At this point there is enough disinformation coming from both sides that makes it hard for me to understand the true scope.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGYoeJ5U7cQ how about drone video of hundreds of hundreds of 'detainees' being loaded onto trains.

how about so many interned that they have to build new camps. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/meghara/china-new-inter...

These have both been widely circulated.

The video has a few problems: there's no indication of where in china this is; there's no indication that these are uighurs; there's no indication that these are any particular kind of prisoner (i.e. political vs criminal); and last this doesn't provide any evidence of more than a few dozen or hundred prisoners.

The BuzzFeed article has problems as well. They extrapolate too much from scant or vague evidence. The satellite photos and maps don't provide any solid evidence for their claims. Just pictures of buildings.

The HN crowd is skeptical of heavily documented scientific studies from renowned scientists and picks them with a fine toothed comb, yet accepts political narratives with patchy evidence put forth by parties with conflicts of interest with little skepticism. It's kind of absurd.

> The video has a few problems: there's no indication of where in china this is;

Someone actually figured out the exact train station and approximate date of when the video was shot. He even showed his work, if you want to check it:


> there's no indication that these are uighurs; there's no indication that these are any particular kind of prisoner (i.e. political vs criminal); and last this doesn't provide any evidence of more than a few dozen or hundred prisoners.

> The BuzzFeed article has problems as well. They extrapolate too much from scant or vague evidence. The satellite photos and maps don't provide any solid evidence for their claims. Just pictures of buildings.

This isn't skepticism, it's denialism. There are hundreds of original reports circulated in reputable journals and news outlets that assemble testimony, documents, and circumstantial evidence that paint a pretty indisputable picture there is some kind of ethnicity-based mass imprisonment program going on in Xinjiang. The attempts of the Chinese government to suppress fact-gathering in the region add even more credibility to picture. Sure, you're not going to find some single piece of evidence that proves it all (e.g. a single satellite image of a vast field of prisons capable of holding one million inmates with a sign legible from space that says "Uyghur forced re-education through labor prison complex, population 1,000,000. Don't tell the foreigners!" and has all the inmates standing outside being counted), but to expect something like that is unreasonable. Each article usually presents just one new piece of the larger puzzle, which has been assembled well enough that it's pretty clear what it's of.

The drone footage is of actual prisoner transfer from Kashgar Remand Prison extrapolated from shaved head and text on garbs. These are videos of actual transfer process in the reeducation and work programs. No shaved heads, basically bus tours, with no where near prison transfer level of coercion. They're boring, so you get propaganda trying to spin the former into the latter.


The buzzfeed study is one of the first decently comprehensive analysis. It doesn't go the actual step to break down each site in detail (i.e. calculate capacity by square footage) which would be actually useful. It does however identify ~300 camps total in the region. The 1-2 million estimate by Zenz that western media regularly repeats is based off his unsubstantiated estimate of 1,200 camps (ASPI). Yet, we're not seeing the corresponding downward revision in numbers.


So far, the entire situation can be summed up as willful ignorance to facts because propaganda > truth for geopolitics. State level institutions in the west have the resources to extrapolate the scale of the XJ programs accurately, but the reality is an underwhelmingly boring dystopia (and it is extremely dystopian) as revealed by leaked CCP documents itself. So the narrative is built on a mix of cherry picked facts and fake news. For instance the codastory on XJ work programs cited the minimum compensation for those in the program is 13RMB per hour as a negative, but that's basic entry level manufacturing wage in China and 2x higher than average income of Hotan where that batch of workers were from. Yet no one is going around reporting XJ vocational training detainees from poor agriculture towns are being paid double their usual income for manufacturing jobs. Incidentally maybe also why the Buzzfeed study, partially funded by RFA / Open Technology Fund goes so far as to identify the number of camps but don't go the extra step of estimating internment capacity, preferring to again, repeat Zenz estimates based off poor methodology that concluded 4x camps existed, something the buzzfeed study itself invalidates.

Assuming your comment is in good faith, one reason a lot of this is coming from intelligence related sources is, media access is extremely restricted in Xinjiang and Tibet. Intelligence agencies have a better chance at getting in, because of their covert ops mandate and training.

Also, wire feeds and media publications like AP, Guardian etc have their independent reporting on it as well like.[1]

Facts might be getting exaggerated but it is not helped by reluctance of CCP to come clean on issues like Covid-19 origins, beligerence towards anyone who says/does something they dislike and comical claims like nine dash line which they are forcing on others like a bully. These at least are open for everyone to see.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/04/muslim-minorit...

I want to believe her, but again:

"Her story, first told to the Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation, is difficult to verify. It is hard to take photos inside detention facilities and there is little documentation. But details match accounts by other camp detainees and research into coercive birth control practices."

This person's story is heartbreaking, but it is merely a thread in an investigation if hard evidence isn't there. The DURF, when you go to their website (https://www.duhrf.org/who-are-the-uyghurs/), is run by five apparently anonymous individuals. They have links to other organizations, one of which I know has at least some leadership linked to American regime change projects.

I'm Jewish. I can't stand authoritarian regimes or concentration camps (hence my objections to the current US regime). However, I don't want to be lead by the nose into another war or brutal sanctions regime that kills hundreds of thousands or millions (as has happened many times in the past) because I didn't ask for evidence when it mattered. If China is really doing this stuff, show me hard evidence.

> If China is really doing this stuff, show me hard evidence.

What exactly is "hard evidence" to you?

The point of evidence is to get at the truth, and standards that are either too low or too high both fail to achieve that. The former admits lies; the latter denies truth, which can be thought of another kind of lie.

Your skepticism is well placed, but if retaliation against your family/extended family can take place, I can see why they might have chosen to stay anonymous. Regarding the links with the other organisation, if these are really responsible for regime changes, I can see why they might want to fund their activities but that doesn't prove CCP's innocence.

Though five decades back but US administration ignored the blood telegram[1] when a genocide of millions happened and they supported the regime who did it, so they definitely are not some white knights as well.

It would be hard to get hard evidence I think, there have been videos of prisoner transfers between these camps, satellite footage of these structures but CCP can always spin a different story about them.

Anyway war is something no one should indulge in unless it threatens their own sovereignty, it is not worth it.

I would say sanctions are reasonable though with the evidence we have seen, considering the other things as well which I had mentioned in my original comment.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blood_Telegram:_Nixon,_K...

BTW, just the fact that China is hiding something in Xinjiang and Tibet and we don't know what exactly is enough to impose sanctions.

There's no presumption of innocence here, it is not a criminal court.

Keeping up with the tradition to invade countries off invented suspicion of WMD.

I doubt most sane people are asking for an invasion.

Most people do not want any war, even if it is against CCP. However the current administration seems to be pushing for at least a limited skirmish. US airforce planes have been flying 100 miles off the coast of major Chinese cities. It is less reported in US news outlets though.

US spy planes flying near china is definitely not new, nor limited to this administration:


You're not wrong. Though following your line of thought, US sacking Beijing isn't new or limited to this administration either https://thediplomat.com/2015/06/when-americans-ruled-beijing...

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