The order from Chinese officials was blunt and urgent. Villagers from Muslim minorities should be pushed into jobs, willing or not. Quotas would be set and families penalized if they refused to go along.
“Make people who are hard to employ renounce their selfish ideas,” the labor bureau of Qapqal, a county in the western region of Xinjiang, said in the directive last year.
Such orders are part of an aggressive campaign to remold Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities — mostly Uighurs and Kazakhs — into an army of workers for factories and other big employers. Under pressure from the authorities, poor farmers, small traders and idle villagers of working age attend training and indoctrination courses for weeks or months, and are then assigned to stitch clothes, make shoes, sweep streets or fill other jobs.