In a recent, sobering report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), it has been revealed that Nintendo is among 83 foreign companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the coerced labor of Uyghur minorities in China.
Uyghurs have lived throughout Central and East Asia for well over a thousand years, though the modern Chinese government does not classify them as indigenous to the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In recent years, the government has begun employing re-education camps, with minorities being arrested outside of any legal system, allegedly in response to extremist threats (which apparently include innocuous acts like “sending Ramadan greetings to friends”). The move has seen strong opposition from the Human Rights Watch and United Nations, with the latter’s Gay McDougall describing them as “political camps for indoctrination.”
The ASPI’s latest report reveals that local governments and private brokers are being paid by the Xinjiang government to assign those within the camps to work within factories across the country – something that is reportedly extremely difficult for the worker to refuse, with the threat of detention and constant surveillance being ever-present. Factories that are taking these workers include FoxConn and Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd, which both provide services for tech companies like Nintendo, Google, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and many, many more. Unlike other employees at the factories, the Uyghur aren’t allowed to go home for the holidays, are forced to take part in “political education”, live in guarded dormitories on-site, and are prevented from practicing their religion.
More specific details can be found in the ASPI report, the BBC’s breakdown, and ExtremeTech’s Joel Hruska’s detailed take on the situation.
There is some hope for Nintendo moving its business elsewhere – just last year the company started doing business with factories based within Vietnam, albeit for financial reasons. Given the scale of the issue, we will likely hear more responses from companies in the coming months.