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US sportswear traced to factory in China’s internment camps
China's pre-Christmas church crackdown raises alarmBarbed wire and hundreds of cameras ring a massive compound of more than 30 dormitories, schools, warehouses and workshops in China’s far west. Dozens of armed officers and a growling Doberman stand guard outside. Behind locked gates, men and women are sewing sportswear that can end up on U.S. college campuses and sports teams.
This is one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are detained, forced to give up their language and their religion and subject to political indoctrination. Now, the Chinese government is also forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. Some of them are within the internment camps; others are privately-owned, state-subsidized factories where detainees are sent once they are released.
The Associated Press has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. The shipments show how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labor from getting into the global supply chain, even though such imports are illegal in the U.S. Badger CEO John Anton said Sunday that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it investigates.
Rwanda shows off new military hardware amid rising African demand for Chinese armsA recent surge of police action against churches in China has raised concerns the government is getting even tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity. Among those arrested are a prominent pastor and his wife, of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan. Both have been charged with state subversion. And on Saturday morning, dozens of police raided a children's Bible class at Rongguili Church in Guangzhou.
China is officially atheist, though says it allows religious freedom. But it has over the years repeatedly taken action against religious leaders it considers to be threatening to its authority or to the stability of the state, which, according to Human Rights Watch, "makes a mockery of the government's claim that it respects religious beliefs". The government pressures Christians to join one of the Three-Self Patriotic churches, state-sanctioned bodies which toe the Communist Party line and are led by approved priests.
Despite this, the Christian population has grown steadily in recent years. There are now an estimated 100 million Christians in China, many of them worshiping in so-called underground churches. Wang Yi is the leader of one such church, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of south-western Sichuan province. The church is unusual in that it worships openly and regularly posts evangelical material online. The church says it has about 800 followers spread across the city. It also runs a small school.
Pastor Wang is also known for being outspoken - he has been fiercely critical of the state's control of religion and had organised a widely shared petition against new legislation brought in this year which allowed for tighter surveillance of churches and tougher sanctions on those deemed to have crossed the line. On 9 December, police raided the church and arrested Pastor Wang and his wife Jiang Rong. Over the following two days, at least 100 church members, including Wang's assistant, were taken away. One member of the church, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, told the BBC that the lock on the church school had been broken, churchgoers' homes had been ransacked and some were "under house arrest or are followed all the time".
Pastor Wang and his wife - who have an 11-year-old son - have been charged with inciting subversion of state power, one of the most serious crimes against the state and a charge which is often used to silence dissidents. It carries a potential jail term of 15 years. Several senior members of the church face similar charges.
There have also been a string of church demolitions, forced removal of crosses or other arrests over the year. Human Rights Watch said the raids at Early Rain and at Rongguili Church were a further sign that under President Xi Jinping, China is seeking to tighten control over all aspects of society.
The Rwandan Defence Force’s use of the Chinese made HJ-9A is the first known use of the missiles by a foreign country. Rwanda, is one of the world’s poorest countries and is still rebuilding after the 1994 genocide, but has been a regular buyer of Chinese arms with previous purchases including the SH-3 self-propelled arms vehicles and air defence missiles.
Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming said the latest purchases highlighted the expansion of Chinese arms sales in Africa – partly because the weapons are easy to operate, effective, relatively cheap and boast similar features to the Soviet weapons favoured by many African armed forces in the past. Between 2013 and 2017, Chinese arms sales increased by 38 per cent from the previous five-year period, with Africa accounting for 21 per cent of China’s arms exports, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“Unlike the US and its allies, China is probably the only arms provider that has no additional political preconditions to major arms sales,” Zhou added. He also said that some African countries wanted to buy some Chinese weapons just to show their close political relationships and military ties with China, he added. However the sales have caused controversy in the past after reports that Chinese weapons were being used in conflicts such as the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan. “As long as the buyers can afford it, China does not worry about selling some of its most advanced weapons to foreign countries, especially army equipment. The only exceptions are the forbidden stuff banned under international treaties,” Zhou said.