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NHS accused of exploiting forced labour

Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

There’s a mutiny underway in Westminster. After years of revelations about the conditions of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province, momentum is building behind plans to stop the government buying health goods made in the region. On Wednesday, MPs will vote on an amendment to the health and social care bill, tabled by former Tory chief whip Lord Blencathra. It would ban NHS procurement from regions where the government believes there to be a ‘serious risk of genocide’. Ministers have already tried to buy off the rebels by proposing a review of health supply chains but ringleaders fear these don’t go far enough.

And now Mr S has seen evidence which suggests that the NHS has indeed been purchasing products made in the Xinjiang province. Research compiled by Professor Laura Murphy, one of the world’s leading expert on Xinjiang supply chains, and Nyrola Elimä shows that at least one NHS hospital has bought protective equipment from Zhende Medical Products, one of China’s leading suppliers. In 2015, Zhende built two factories in Alashankou, Xinjiang. In 2017, after the factories began production, the company announced that it would participate in the Chinese government’s ‘surplus labour’ program through which they accepted 300 transferred labourers. 

Various international bodies maintain that these so-called ‘surplus labour’ programmes are, in fact, state-sponsored forced labour initiatives. Adrian Zenz, one of the world’s leading experts on Xinjiang internment camps, has previously warned in December 2020 that: ‘There is a very strong and clear moral obligation by Western governments and companies to avoid companies like Zhende, which has both sourcing and manufacturing in Xinjiang.’ Zhende denies being involved in the use of forced or compulsory labour.

The masks used at King’s College Hospital London

A box of Zhende masks was used at King’s College Hospital in London.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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