The Woke Approved Genocide
Burning down strawmen while supporting actual monsters is not a good look for the ESG world.
This will be the first of a two-part series where I explore the trade-offs corporations are willing to make in the balance between environmental concerns and human rights abuses through the lens of corporate ESG “do-gooder-ism” initiatives and the recent UN report documenting the genocide occurring in China against an ethnic minority group.
In part 1, I will briefly introduce ESG and deep dive into the UN report.
In part 2, I will show how the modern-day green god of environmentalism has made many corporations at least willing blind, if not complicit, to one of the worst cases of human rights abuses of modern history.
A month or so ago, I wrote a post defining the term Functional Bigotry. In it, I explain that many of our elite institutions, while explicitly stating the desire to help certain oppressed groups, act in ways that are consistently and clearly, detrimental to them.
This post will cover a slightly different angle of the Functional Bigotry argument. Here we will address the human rights catastrophe many companies are willing to ignore to save the world from the modern world’s Keyser Söze, climate change.
The concept of Environmental, Social, and Governance, otherwise known as ESG, has been around for nearly two decades but has really caught steam over the past four to five. Originally coined by the United Nations Environment Programme Initiative in 2005, the concept has been accepted by companies worldwide as a guiding principle for their investments and has been taken up by the World Economic Forum as a billy club with which to beat countries and companies over the head.
To better understand what is incorporated into the ESG umbrella, take a look at the hierarchy below:
As you can see in this traditional ESG modeling, environmental (climate change, pollution), social (labor, product safety), and governance (the change mechanisms) are all even considered alongside one another.
While this is a common representation of the ESG structure, it is a little misleading…it’s really more akin to something like the below, where corporate governance is actually the superstructure that supports the environmental and social causes (this will be important later on).
In fact, it is hard to find a company of any significance that isn’t genuflecting to the gods of ESG at this point. Certainly, some of this is organic because our multinational corporations care so much about the world (ah-hem). Still, much of it is astroturf, driven by activist investors who are trying to get companies to bend to their will in order to inflate a bubble market and defraud their investors with inflated fees while just giving them the same investment funds as before. In particular, Blackrock, the largest asset management firm in the world with over $10T of assets under management, is deeply invested in ESG initiatives worldwide, with a heavy emphasis on the “E” piece. More on them in part 2.
Now let’s jump into the UN report documenting the PRCs (People’s Republic of China) crimes against a vulnerable ethnic minority group.
As this is a 100% free substack, the only thing I ask for in return is to share my work on your socials
UN Human Rights Report
After years of reports surrounding the horrendous treatment of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report on their findings at the end of August. The report is as damning as expected and shows treatment of the ethnic cleansing / genocidal variety against the nearly 12M Uyghur Muslims who live in the territory (China is less than thrilled about the report.)
Along with working with the Chinese mission to the UN, the OHCHR conducted 40 in-depth interviews with people familiar with the situation on the ground, with 26 of those having been either detained or worked in facilities across the XUAR since 2016.
I will not comprehensively cover the report, but enough to be clear that it should be concerning for any country/company doing business with the PRC in general and in the XUAR specifically.
Starting in 2014, the PRC initiated the “Strike Hard” campaign in response to
“separatist, terrorist, and extremist forces, [who] launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, and causing immeasurable damage to property.”
Since the start of “Strike Hard,” the government claims it has eradicated terrorism from the XUAR, with no terrorist events since 2016.
So let us define our terms.
The Chinese Government defines the term “terrorist” activities as:
the following conduct of the terrorist nature: (1) Organizing, planning, preparing for, or conducting the activities which cause or attempt to cause casualties, grave property loss, damage to public facilities, disruption of social order and other serious social harm; (2) Advocating terrorism, instigating terrorist activities, or illegally holding articles advocating terrorism, or forcing other persons to wear costume or symbols advocating terrorism in public places; (3) Organizing, leading or participating in terrorist organizations; (4) Providing information, funds, materials, labor services, technologies, places and other support, assistance and convenience to terrorist organizations, terrorists, the implementation of terrorist activities or training on terrorist activities; (5) Other terrorist activities” (unofficial translation) [emphasis added]
For the sake of argument, let’s give the PRC the benefit of the doubt on the terminology that should have commonly understood definitions (I know, but stick with me here). Even allowing for that, it seems that the “disruption of social order and other serious social harm” point is doing an awful lot of work here, but it gets much more sinister.
How about an “extremist” or “extremification”? Well, the XUAR Regulation of De-extremification (rolls off the tongue, huh?) defines those for us. Extremism is defined as:
“propositions and conduct using distortion of religious teachings or other means to incite hatred or discrimination and advocate violence”, and “extremification” as “speech and actions under the influence of extremism, that spread radical religious ideology, and reject and interfere with normal production and livelihood.” This regulation also contains an open-ended list of “primary expressions of extremification”, all of which are to be prohibited, including “interfering with normal cultural and recreational activities, rejecting or refusing public goods and services such as radio and television”, “spreading religious fanaticism through irregular beards or name selection”, and “deliberately interfering with or undermining the implementation of family planning policies”. In this regard, it is notable that Chinese law and policy consistently refer to “extremism” generally, without the critical qualifying adjective “violent”, as UN instruments approach the issue [emphasis added]
In addition to these innocuous actions & characteristics being classified as “extremism,” other sections of the document include items such as “suddenly quitting drinking and smoking,” “resisting normal cultural and sports activities such as football and singing competitions,” “refusing to watch normal movies and TV networks,” and not following proper family planning as extremist activities.
So if your name is Muhammed, you don’t like soccer, have an even number of children, and hate American Idol (or whatever the Chinese version is, I’m sure Simon Cowell is there somehow), the PRC considers you an extremist. See where we’re going with this? What then happens to those bearded, soccer-hating, Chinese Idol ignoring monsters? As with the definitions of “crimes,” the punishments are equally ill-defined.
Punishments & Detention
The PRC established a two-tier track for violations in the XUAR. The more serious crimes are handled in criminal courts. In contrast, minor violations are handled by an “administrative” path where punishments are handed out at Vocational Education and Training Centers (VETC facilities), which are facilities where individuals can be placed for “deradicalization and re-education.”
How is the severity of a “crime” determined? What “education and training” do VETC prisoners receive? How long are they detained? What progress must be shown for them to be released? What is the extent of the country’s investigative powers? All of this is anyone’s guess.
Based on the interviews with former “students” at the VETC facilities, we know that they were deprived of fundamental liberties, such as being informed of the reason for their detentions, the length of their detentions, the criteria for their release, access to an attorney, being forced to make propaganda videos about their experience at the VETC facilities, and limited to no access to their families (in fact some families never knew where the person went at all).
Additionally, the OHCHR estimates that “around 10-20 per cent [sic] of the adult ‘ethnic population’ in these counties and townships were subjected to some form of detention between 2017 and 2018.” This means that between ~1.1M and 2.2M adults were detained over these two years. As a reference, as of 2022, about 1.9M people are incarcerated in a country of 330M.
The PRC claims that, as of 2019, all VETC facilities are now closed, but even if true, there could be a good reason for it.
Assuming the VETC sites are indeed closed, this could simply be sweeping the dirt under a different rug because starting in 2018 and 2019, there was a 25% and 19.2% increase in criminal justice referrals, respectively…pure coincidence, to be sure. But not to worry about the fairness of the criminal justice trials because China has a 99.9% conviction rate (no, really).
Along with the increase in referrals (and, in turn, guaranteed convictions), the length of sentences increased dramatically, from just shy of 11% receiving sentences of five years or longer to 87% receiving longer sentences, including a 10x increase in 2017 alone.
Regardless of in what facility they are being held, the treatment of the Uighurs has not improved, as 2/3 of the former detainees the OHCHR interviewed reported treatment that would be classified as torture.
Before their detention at the facilities, the detainees were beaten with batons, waterboarded, and put in solitary confinement for prolonged periods. While in custody, the detainees were raped, forced to take unknown medications against their wills, shackled in their cells, starved, sleep deprived, not allowed to speak their native language or practice their religion, and forced to sing “red songs,” “every day, as loud as possible and until it hurts, until our faces become red and our veins appeared on our face.”
Not to mention the general psychological torture due to the lack of knowledge about the lengths or reasons for their detentions, contestant fear, and lack of contact with the outside world.
As this is a 100% free substack, the only thing I ask for in return is to share my work on your socials
Other Human Rights Concerns
The “Strike Hard” campaign also led to a variety of human rights concerns, among the community at large. They virtually crushed religious freedom of the citizens in the XUAR by including, within the definition of “extremism” actitivies like, “wearing hijabs and ‘abnormal’ beards; expanding the scope of ‘Halal’; closing restaurants during Ramadan; participating in cross-county religious activities ‘without valid reason’; using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), social media and Internet to teach scriptures and preach; and giving one’s child a Muslim name.” Additionally, there is evidence of the destruction of mosques in the region.
In possibly the most Orwellian named aspect of the entire program, in 2016 the government started the “Becoming Family” campaign. Under this campaign, ultimately 1 million civil workers were assigned to live with rural families for at least five days each month. Needless to say, these stays were involuntary, and the families were not allowed to observe religious practices or even speak their native language when the “family member” was there. In essence, this was a face-to-face surveillance program.
The final and most shocking topic to cover is the precipitous decline in birth rates in the XUAR. In the two years from 2017-2019, the birth rates in XUAR dropped by 48.7% (from 15.88 to 8.14/1,000), bringing the region down from 51.5% above the country average to 22.3% below the country average in that short time period, with the bulk of the decline occurring in Uyghur-majority areas in the XUAR.
The likely reason for this steep decline in birth rates? The rate of sterilizations & IUD placements in the XUAR over the same period. In 2018, sterilization of XUAR inhabitants stood at 243 per 100,000, vs. 32.1 per 100,000 in China as a whole. Unsurprisingly, several women interviewed by the OHCHR claimed they were forced to be sterilized, have IUDs placed, or have abortions at the risk of imprisonment.
Let's think back to the fact that the definition of “extremism” includes having too many children and that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom warned about these activities in 2020. It is at least possible, if not probable, that the Chinese government is trying to sterilize the ethnic minorities in the XUAR out of existence or at least strike the right levels of population control with the amount of slave labor they need. Speaking of which…
Why Woke Corporations are complicit
The case is clear that the PRC is, at the very least, committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur Muslims in the XUAR, but what does this have to do with the Woke ESG corporations? A couple of things:
It seems there was a pipeline from the VETC facilities to forced labor placements through “surplus labor” and “labor transfer” programs. Additionally, local townships had labor quotas to meet. Is it possible that the PRC closed the VETC facilities because they now had the trained labor they needed and could simply ship slaves off directly to the work camps? We know a significant amount of manufacturing still occurs to such a degree that in December of 2021, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to “mitigate the importation of goods made in whole or part, mined, assembled.”
The right to privacy has also been under attack in the XUAR, supported by a wide-scale surveillance system, both on- and offline, which has been supported by private security and technology companies. The online technology being deployed include biometric tracking, iris, and facial scanning, facial recognition, and access to people’s communications, and financial histories, all supported by big data technologies.
The support from outside companies is so blatant that the OHCHR report explicitly recommends that the business community:
(i) Takes all possible measures to meet the responsibility to respect human rights across activities and business relationships as set out [sic] the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including through enhanced human rights due diligence, and report on this transparently; and
(ii) Strengthens [sic] human rights risk assessment by companies involved in the surveillance and security sector, including whether products and services could lead to or contribute to adverse human rights impacts, including on the rights to privacy, freedom of movement, and the respect of non-discrimination.
In other words, stop doing business with and selling your technology to genocidal maniacs you monsters.
I think this sufficiently covers the UN report and shows the depravity of the PRC against the ethnic minorities in the XUAR. In part two, I will show how Woke corporations are not simply turning a blind eye to these atrocities, despite their ESG kabuki dance, but are propping up the repressive system that keeps the people in the XUAR under the boot of their government.
See you soon.