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Built on Repression

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Built on Repression

The very floors we walk on could be made with forced labour

 

This report investigates the increased manufacturing of PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) through state-sponsored labour transfers in China’s Uyghur Region and the routes by which the resulting building materials make their way into international markets.
This collaboration between the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University and Material Research found the following:
  • the Uyghur Region has become a world leader in the production of PVC plastics in recent years, accounting for 10% of the world’s PVC.
  • The two largest PVC manufacturers in China are both state-owned enterprises based in the XUAR:
    - Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical (2.33 million tons per year, from four locations)
    - Xinjiang Tianye (1.4 million tons capacity per year, from one location).
  • All of the Uyghur Region’s PVC companies have been active participants in the XUAR’s notorious labour transfer programs.
  • Those companies export to 73 intermediary manufacturers, who then export PVC-based building materials to at least 158 companies worldwide.

Forced labour and environmental destruction in the Uyghur Region

The Uyghur Region is being used as both a source of cheap labour and cheap coal, and also as a dumping ground for the most hideous of environmental hazards. The abuse of human labour and the environment in the XUAR has significantly reduced the price of manufacturing PVC and thus of manufacturing luxury flooring worldwide.

Research on Zhongtai Group alone revealed:

  • Zhongtai Group has transferred more than 5,000 citizens deemed to be surplus laborers,” according to its own reports—more than perhaps any other company described in academic or journalistic ac­counts of labour transfers in the XUAR.
  • Zhongtai runs ideological and vocational training schools that have trained thousands of rural farm­ers to become compliant factory laborers.
  • Despite significant mechanization, Zhongtai con­tinues to bring in transferred low-skill laborers who work directly in the production of the PVC and their other products.

The environmental damage created by these companies is devastating:

  • The Uyghur Region is one of the very few plac­es on earth where the most extraordinarily hazardous methods of PVC manufacturing are allowed to per­sist.
  • The seven Uyghur Region-based PVC plants’ esti­mated air emissions are equal to more than half of the air releases of mercury (14.8 tons) reported in all manufacturing in all of the United States in 2020.
  • PVC plants have been built in the Uyghur Region in part to take advantage of the extraordinary coal resources in the region. As a result of basing man­ufacturing on dirty coal, PVC plants in XUAR, run­ning at full capacity, will release an estimated 49 million tons of global warming gases, each produc­ing more than any other similar plant.

 

Through these abusive practices, Uyghur forced labour makes its way into our homes, schools, and hospitals, serving as the very literal foundations upon which we work and play. PVC is not alone on these counts. Uyghur forced labour also makes its way into the food we eat, the computers we work on, the toys we play with, the clothes we wear. This report provides a road map for understanding the violations occurring in the Uyghur Region and for identifying how the products of those abuses pervade supply chains.

 

 
This Kumu map shows all of the sites of PVC production in the Uyghur Region, as well as those companies' investors and the supply chains that are at greatest risk of sourcing from XUAR PVC.

To zoom in to the map, use the + and. - buttons. Then click on a company on the map to learn more about it.

 

For full screen navigation of this map, visit Kumu.

 

Note (June 27, 2022)Due to an algorithmic mistake in the customs data utilized in the analysis of this report, LW Flooring was inaccurately named as being at risk of sourcing PVC from the Uyghur Region. As soon as we were notified of this issue, we sought and received confirmation from the supplier that provided the data that it was a mistake on their end, and we have corrected all appearances of LW in our materials.

 

Report Annexes

Get in touch

Contact the Helena Kennedy Centre to discuss facilities, partnerships, doctoral research and more

Email us

Research team

Laura Murphy

Professor Laura Murphy

Professor of Human Rights and Contemporary Slavery

Nyrola Elima

Nyrola Elimä

Supply Chain Analyst

Jim Vallette

Jim Vallette

President, Material Research


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