♪ ("LAST WEEK TONIGHT" THEME PLAYS) ♪
Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns eyelashes.
Among other things, the reason that camels are so sexy.
Look without those luscious lashes they'd just be
lumpy horses with furry back boobs
but then you see those eyes and remember,
"Oh yeah, I'd totally fuck a camel."
And by the way, I'm serious,
we're gonna talk about eyelashes.
Look, it's the summer, there's a pandemic raging.
and frankly, I think we've all earned a deep dive on how to
best make your eyelashes pop. And to that end,
there's a TikTok makeup tutorial,
that I'd like you to take a look at.
Hi guys, so I'm gonna teach you guys how to get long lashes.
So the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler,
curl your lashes obviously, then you're going to
put them down, and use your phone that you're using
right now to search up what's happening in China,
how they're getting concentration camps,
throwing innocent Muslims in there,
separating their families from each other--
Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Hold on. That took quite a turn there.
She went from promising longer lashes to
discussing concentration camps in just 12 seconds,
and that's genuinely impressive. Look, I'm a bit of an expert
at taking something fun, and quickly ruining it.
So, this is game recognizing game here.
But she is right, a lash curler is a vital tool
in anyone's beauty arsenal and, there's an ethnic group
in China being systematically surveilled and imprisoned
in an attempt to essentially wipe their culture off the map.
You know what, let's hold the eyelash story
for another week and instead, let's talk about this.
Because, the people in question are the Uighurs.
They're a mostly Muslim, ethnic minority
in a region of China called Xinjiang.
And the Chinese government has been treating them
REPORTER: A U.N. panel says the region resembles
a massive internment camp.
Where more than one million Muslim minorities
have been rounded up, detained, and forcibly indoctrinated
by the Chinese regime.
Witness accounts, satellite imagery,
and communist party documents reveal what appears to be
the largest imprisonment of people
on the basis of religion since the Holocaust.
Saying anything is the largest,
"since the Holocaust"
automatically makes whatever you just said worse.
The largest collection of shoes? Fun!
The largest collection of shoes since the Holocaust?
Oh boy, all of a sudden, really, really, not fun.
And if this is the first time that you're hearing about
an estimated million people who've been held
in detention camps, mostly Uighurs but also Kazakhs
and other ethnic minorities, you are not alone.
And it's probably because, China has done it's level best
to keep this story from getting out.
But it may be getting harder to ignore.
Just this week, we learned that you may actually have
a personal connection to this, without even knowing it.
'Cause it turns out, Uighurs are being shipped
and not always willingly, to work in factories
across China. And some of the products
they've been making, may be right in front of your face.
NYT NARRATOR: If you are one of the millions of people
around the world wearing a face mask
because of the coronavirus pandemic,
this footage may concern you.
It shows a group of Uighurs arriving at a textile company
that started producing masks in response to the pandemic.
We identified several Chinese companies that use Uighur labor
to produce PPE. And, we tracked some of their shipments
to consumers in the US, and around the world.
Yeah, it's true. The very masks that some in this country see
as unacceptable infringements on their personal liberty,
may be getting made by people who would absolutely love
for their worst infringement to be, getting politely asked
to leave a fucking Costco.
And while there is clearly nothing new
about horrific practices being hidden
deep in the supply chain of global capitalism,
what is happening to the Uighurs is particularly appalling.
So tonight, let's talk about them.
Who they are, what's been happening to them, and why.
And let's start, with a bit of context.
About eleven million Uighurs live in Xinjiang
in the far Northwest corner of China.
It's resource rich, and it's strategically important.
But Uighurs, have always had an uncomfortable relationship
with the authorities in Beijing.
They have their own language, and are culturally
and ethnically distinct from the rest of China's population.
Which is more than 90 percent Han, Chinese.
On top of which, there's the fact the Uighurs are Muslim
In a country that is aggressively secular.
So much so, that a few years ago a Chinese reality show
went to Dubai, and state TV centered all depictions
of a woman in a head scarf in the weirdest possible way.
Covering it with a cartoon helmet
and a shock of yellow hair with a ghost in it,
and covering her hijab by obscuring her completely
with a cactus in a Santa hat. Even doing that
when she's reflected in another person's sunglasses.
And look, setting aside the issue of religious freedom
for a second. That's and amazing way to censor
someone out of a TV show. I'm just saying,
watching old episodes of House of Cards
would be much less uncomfortable if it looked like this instead:
Why did you ask him to leave?
Because I just wanted to look in your eyes
one more time...
before we do this.
We're doing this.
That's just objectively much better.
And now you can enjoy House of Cards,
just as much as you used to. Which was, a bit.
So there was that base line difference there.
On top of which, some Han Chinese have held
bigoted views about the Uighurs. In fact, just listen
to this interview from back in 2008.
NARRATOR: Here in Beijing,
Uighurs are dispersed across the city.
Many work at restaurants and street stalls.
They stand out because of their different features and dress.
Some Han Chinese are blatantly prejudice against them.
TRANSLATOR: The people from Xinjiang are not very good.
Robbers, and thieves.
Wow. Robbers and thieves. That is not an acceptable way
to describe an entire ethnic group.
It's barely an acceptable way to describe all raccoons.
I mean, yeah, they are essentially just
kleptomaniac possums, who steal your trash
with their spooky little doll hands,
but that's not all that they are.
And all of this was exacerbated by the Chinese Government
encouraging Han people to migrate to Xinjiang
with them often being favored over Uighurs for top jobs.
And these tensions and resentments,
amid an overall atmosphere of extreme discrimination
finally boiled over in 2009, with riots in the capital
that killed 200 people, mostly Han Chinese.
But, rather than address the complex underlying factors
behind those riots and other incidents,
the Chinese government simply painted them
as religious terrorism,
beginning a decade long crackdown
that's escalated steadily, especially after
China's president, Xi Jinping came to power,
and instituted what was called the "Strike Hard Campaign,"
against violent terrorism, in 2014.
And think of it as the Patriot Act on steroids.
Because, all of a sudden, Uighurs started being treated
like they were all potential terrorists.
In fact, Xinjiang is now one of the most heavily policed areas
in the world.
With the authorities surveilling things that most people
would find, utterly meaningless.
If you go through Uighur neighborhoods
or suburbs, you see cameras
over literally every house entrance,
so the government can see who enters and who leaves.
How low is the bar for being highlighted by the system?
Are you socializing more or less with your neighbors?
Have you put gas in somebody else's car?
Are you going out the front door of your house
instead of the back door of your house?
That's how low the bar is.
Oh, it goes even further. The government has a list
of 75 behavioral indications of religious extremism.
With some as vague as, "people who store large amounts
of food, those who smoke and drink
but quit doing so quite suddenly,
and those who buy or store equipment such as dumbbells
without obvious reasons." Although that last one,
clearly would not be an issue for me.
'Cause, I got two pretty obvious reasons for dumbbell ownership
right here. It's not called a workout,
if you don't put the work in, brosef Bronrad.
Trust me, they call me "The Lunch Lady,"
'cause from the hours of eleven to one,
I don't stop stacking plates.
I call this one John, and this one Tapper
because together, they lift up bars.
But look, China doesn't just collect this information
it feeds it into a predictive policing system that monitors
that monitors for potential threats. In one week,
it flagged the names of 24,000 people as suspicious,
15,000 of whom, were then sent to reeducation camps.
And when pressed on whether any of this
is strictly necessary, Chinese officials will argue
that they are simply being proactive.
TRANSLATOR 2: Some people, before they commit murder,
already show they're capable of it.
Should we wait for them to commit a crime,
or prevent it from happening?
Okay, that is both insane logic and also, the exact plot
of minority report. Which, if you haven't seen it,
very briefly-- The year is 2054. Tom Cruise's John Anderson
is Chief of Washington DC's Pre-crime Police Department
where murders are stopped before they happen.
Now ethically, there are some questions about the system.
For instance, can you really be sure an individual
will commit the crimes the precogs say they'll commit?
Oh yeah, the precogs. They are bald freaks
who sleep in an indoor swimming pool
and they scream whenever they visualize a future murder.
I think they're all siblings, or aliens, or babies.
I can't remember. But basically, the murder rate in the city
is zero, Anderson's doing well, and so the status quo remains.
Now one day, the pre-cogs generate a prediction.
John Anderson will murder a man he doesn't even know
in just 36 hours. But it couldn't be!
That's out hero, isn't it?
So, he stages an escape, gets an eye transplant
so he can't be detected by the cities eye-based
surveillance system, finds out he's being framed,
then, finds out that Max Von Sydow--
oh yeah, by the way, he's in this too--
is gonna kill Anderson, but decides not to
and Anderson doesn't the kill the person that he supposedly
was going to, disproving the very basis of
the pre-crime system, and proving
that people do have free choice. So, in the end,
they shut down the program and send the precogs away
to live on a farm, but not the death kind,
we assume. Anyway, it's scary, but it's pretty good.
I'd say three stars. (CHIMES PLAY)
But the bigger point is, people in Xinjiang have been
arrested and thrown in camps, despite having committed
no crimes. Which is chilling. A million Uighurs were
at one point being held extra-judicially,
many for acts as innocuous as growing a beard,
fasting, or applying for a passport.
And this is a very sore subject for the Chinese government
which initially, denied the existence of the camps
at all, before shifting to arguing that they are merely,
vocational training facilities. Although, even the heavily
orchestrated media tours suggest their primary purpose
might be something else.
CNN REPORTER: Authorities recently took some diplomats
and journalists on a carefully supervised tour
of some of these facilities. Some detainees told journalists
the camps re-educate them.
TRANSLATOR 3: All of us found that we have something wrong with ourselves.
And luckily enough, the Communist party
and the government offer this kind of school
to us for free.
Holy shit. That might be the single
creepiest sing-along I've ever heard
that doesn't involve Barnie. A dinosaur who is clearly aware
of clothing, he's wearing a hat,
and yet still actively chooses to go bottomless
You are an absolute monster.
And for all the Chinese governments talk
of "vocational training," these camps
sure seem prison-like. Leaked classified documents
have shown that staff at these facilities
were told to prevent students from freely contacting
the outside world, and that they should...
And the phrase, "prevent escapes,"
is something of a tell there. If your employee handbook says,
"prevent escape," you're probably working
at a prison, or at the very least,
a Scientology picnic.
"Hey, we're just here to grill some dogs,
play some tunes, and, if anyone asks
where Shelly is, do not let them escape."
And look, if that weren't enough
to make it clear what these camps really are,
just listen to one former detainee describe
what she went through.
TRANSLATOR 4: Each woman gets two minutes to go to the toilet.
They tell you to be quick, quick, quick.
If you're not quick enough, they shock you
with an electric baton on the back of your head,
it really hurts. And they did it a lot.
Even after being shocked, we had to say,
"Thank you, teacher, we will not be late next time."
That is clearly, absolutely appalling.
I didn't think people had to publicly thank
abusers anymore, now that Harvey Weinstein
doesn't go to award shows. And look,
I'm not even getting into the reports of forced abortions
and sterilizations of Uighur women,
which are absolutely horrific. And China will argue
that this is all about economic opportunity
and attempting to assimilate a historically ostracized
minority, but assimilation, when forced,
is cultural erasure. Because, in addition
to using mass detention to keep families apart,
there are also rules that seem to be trying
to break the chain, by which families hand down
a culture and faith across generations.
From laws prevents kids from going to mosques.
To a ban on baby names that are considered,
"too Islamic," to the creation of state-run boarding schools
for Uighur children.
Now other moves by China have been even more
on-the-nose, like the destruction
of Uighur cemeteries. The government actually...
And look, I'm not saying that this
is the most important thing, but this is one
of the pandas in question. And frankly,
I've never had more questions. Why is he holding a lollipop?
Why does he have the posture of a startled gopher?
Why does he have an expression that screams,
"I just had a lobotomy, but it turns out
I'm both happy about it and surprisingly horny"?
Frustratingly, we may never know the answers.
Now thankfully, as criticism of China's camps
has intensified in recent years,
the government seems to be closing some of them.
Unfortunately though, they seem to have shifted
to staging sham trials, and transferring Uighurs
to prisons that aren't even pretending
to be training centers anymore.
China's also created a system of mass labor transfers
that sent Uighurs, and other ethnic minorities
into factory and service jobs, sometimes hundreds,
or thousands of miles from home.
That is how those masks that we mentioned
at the start of this piece are getting made.
And Chinese state media presents this as a positive.
Showing Uighur workers arriving at a train station,
then being taken on a bus to their new accommodations,
all with upbeat narration like this.
CCTV REPORTER: Up to now, Xinjiang has organized transfers
for around 178,000 workers, providing them
a stable employment rate of over 92 percent.
Yeah, you can't celebrate a stable workforce
when it is forced labor, any more than you'd give
me credit for spending a lot of time with my kids
over the past few months. Believe me,
if I had any other choice, I wouldn't be.
Because as you've probably guessed,
this isn't just a benevolent jobs program,
the idea, as one local government report puts it,
is that sending Uighurs far from home
will allow for distancing them from religiously extreme views,
and educating them. And a lot of people
have been distanced. One Australian think tank
that investigated forced labor,
estimated that conservatively, over just a two-year period...
They also found over 80 companies... (READS PROMPT)
Some of them big international brands like Nike.
When the Washington Post visited the factory
of one of Nike's suppliers, it found Uighur workers...
With one worker saying, (READS PROMPT)
Now, Nike has claimed that this factory
no longer employs Uighur workers,
and they told us... (READS PROMPT)
Which, given what The Post found,
feels like their policy on oversight
is less "just do it," than... (READS PROMPT)
And look, it's not just Nike. Another company
on the list is Volkswagen, which told us,
they found no indications of forced labor
in their supply chain. Though, it is worth noting,
that last year, their CEO was challenged
about whether China's treatment of the Uighurs gave him pause,
and this was his response.
I am, you know, absolutely proud
to also create workplaces in their region,
which we think is very useful.
But Xinjiang is something you're not proud
to be associate with, in terms of what
the Chinese government is doing to Uighur people--
-I can't, uh, judge it, sorry. -You can't judge it?
-No. -But you know about it.
I don't know what-- what you're referring to.
You don't know about China's re-education camps
for a million Uighur people, it has been referred to
as re-education camps as part of
it's counter-terror threat in the west of this country.
-You don't know about that? -I'm not aware, frankly.
Wow. Finding out that Volkswagen
is overlooking a massive human rights crisis
is kind of like finding out your grandparents
are still having sex. Sure,
it's completely horrifying, but it really shouldn't
be too shocking after all,
they've been doing it since World War 2.
And look, I can understand why companies, and others,
might want to turn away from what's going on
in Xinjiang, because, it's harrowing.
Remember that woman who got electric shocks
for taking too long in the bathroom?
She was in two different camps, then transferred
into forced labor at a glove factory.
All while separated from her family for two years.
And while they were eventually reunited,
they are understandably, still haunted to this day.
ABC REPORTER: For two years you didn't see your mom?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
That is heartbreaking, and completely indefensible.
And whenever pressed on this, the Chinese government
has been quick to use whataboutism.
They responded to U.S. criticism by invoking
a trustees (?) ranging from the genocide of Native Americans
to a statement that read... (READS PROMPT)
And look, those are fair hits. Those are fair points
right there, but, it's also completely possible
for two things to be wrong at the same time.
And I know, the U.S. China relationship is complicated,
particularly right now. And too often,
it descends into reductive, xenophobic,
us versus them stereotypes. But human rights
should be completely non-negotiable.
And I will say, the U.S. has taken some small steps.
Like proposing sanctions against top Chinese officials.
And Congress even passed the Uighur human rights
policy act, earlier this year.
But... Although Trump signed it, he also reportedly
told Xi Xinping that he should go ahead
with building the camps because he thought it was...
Which, from a foreign policy perspective,
a human rights perspective, a political perspective,
and even an interpersonal perspective,
is exactly the wrong fucking thing to do.
But look, this clearly isn't just
about Trump, is it? Going forward,
the entire global community needs to do more.
The U.N. should have independent investigators
looking into what China has done in Xinjiang.
Governments around the world should be speaking out
about the treatment of the Uighurs,
without bending to China's economic influence,
and big, multi-national companies
like Nike and VW should not only be working
to clean up their supply chains, but also actively using
their financial leverage to pressure
the Chinese government to end these abuses.
But none of that is gonna happen
unless people pay attention.
And look, I know that raising awareness
is often a bullshit solution that doesn't really solve
a problem. But there can be a real benefit
to awareness, even if it is coming through
a TikTok makeup tutorial, or let's say,
the exact opposite of one.
Because in this instance, awareness is actually
a necessary precondition for action.
And I know there is a lot to worry about right now.
From a raging pandemic, to an ugly
presidential election, to a purple pervert
who couldn't give a fuck about pants.
But... We have to make sure that the treatment of Uighurs
is also on that list. 'Cause when you're dealing
with a concerted campaign, centered on cultural erasure,
one of the most important things we can do
is continue to pay attention. At the very least,
so that if an entire culture is replaced by a horny,
lobotomized panda, we'll know to stand up
and fucking say something.