Xinjiang, the heavily police-force region of western China where the government has been accused of arresting more than a million Muslims, is facing a new coronavirus outbreak.
While the rest of the country reports only a handful of daily cases – most of which have been imported – Xinjiang has recorded dozens of new infections this week. The region reported 14 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 197, according to China’s National Health Commission.
It is the largest coronavirus cluster in the country since then, more than 180 infections have been reported in the capital Beijing in June. It raised eyebrows at the strong surveillance and security in the area and the drastic response the government took earlier this year.
During the first outbreak of China Xinjiang has been subjected to rigorous lockdown measures on par with those in Wuhan City – the virus’s original epicenter – although only about 70 cases and three deaths have been reported. When the regional capital, Urumqi, suffered an outbreak in July, authorities instituted a strict lockdown, canceled flights, inspected markets and restaurants and tested residents.
Allegations of abuse: On Thursday, officials from Xinjiang said the factory at the heart of the recent outbreak employed 252 workers and made casual and sportswear. This was set up as part of a plan to “help villagers find work and raise their income”.
Xinjiang-based factories and companies have historically been alleged of forced labor and poor conditions. Last month, the United States introduced new import restrictions on Chinese companies alleged to be slave labor, including products from alleged mass prison camps in the region.
Adrian Zenz, a senior policy expert for the Chinese government in Xinjiang, said the factory at the heart of the recent outbreak is a symbol of “forced labor training,” an alleged poverty reduction program targeting so-called “rural surplus workers.” “”
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