Chinese authorities withheld information about the Atush Karajol earthquake Chinese authorities withheld information about the Atush Karajol earthquake

Chinese authorities withheld information about the Atush Karajol earthquake

Chinese authorities withheld information about the Atush Karajol earthquake

According to Chinese media reports, at least 127 people died and 700 were injured in a 6.2-magnitude earthquake in Gansu Province on the night of December 18. On December 19, the Gansu provincial government announced at a press conference that the earthquake in Gansu, where there are many Tongan Muslims, had an impact beyond Gansu and Qinghai.

A rare geological disaster occurred in Haidong County, Qinghai Province; The earthquake caused a wave of sand, which destroyed some houses and caused heavy casualties.

 At 9:46 on December 19, a 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck Atush City, Qirisu Autonomous Prefecture, Uyghur Region. The epicenter of the earthquake was Karajol town, a mountainous pastoral area in Atush.

All Chinese government-run media and social networks have consistently stated that no people or property were injured in the Atush Karajol earthquake.

When we called the disaster prevention and management office of the Atush City Earthquake Bureau, the shift officer who answered our questions insisted that the earthquake was a one-time event and that he could not tell anything other than the information released by the government. "Have there been any deaths?" When asked, he avoided answering, saying: "I can't answer your questions about this without identifying you." Use whatever information the government provides about this. I know nothing else.'

According to the information on the website of Qirisu Prefecture, Karajol village is located in the northeast of Atush city, and the Kyrgyz population is the majority. It is known that the earthquake that happened in this village, which is connected with Maralbeshi, Kelpin and Pezhavat counties, also affected the neighboring villages.

A news release from the Chinese government announced that rescue centers in the city of Karajol are on standby 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies. But our calls to the contact numbers of these points went unanswered.

Karajol village is a mountainous area surrounded by mountains on all four sides. According to Uyghur observers' statements on social media, the December 19th earthquake is likely to bring a natural disaster to this village.

At 8 a.m. on December 20th, a Chinese official answered our phone call to the Qirisu Provincial Government Information Office and repeated what had been reported in the Chinese media.

"There were no injuries or deaths, the mountain village is a deserted place. What the news says is the case, if you want to know more details, you can send a letter or email to ask. It cannot be answered like this.'

Chinese authorities also withheld information about several major earthquakes that occurred between 2003 and 2016, but other sources have revealed that there have been deaths, injuries, and property damage in these disasters.

On December 20, "Xinhua News Agency" announced that there was no damage in the earthquake in Karajol. "Now their lives are safer. After the village launched a housing project in 2012, more than 800 families in the village moved into earthquake-resistant houses." Many earthquakes occurred in the area, but there were no casualties. The report also quoted the Karajol village chief as saying, "Thank you for the rural housing project implemented by the government."

According to Chinese media, the Gansu earthquake is China's deadliest disaster since 2014. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, issued instructions on emergency relief, treatment of the injured, and damage reduction in the Gansu earthquake. However, neighboring regions, including the Uighur region, did not talk about earthquakes and their prevention.

According to the data, Karajol village is a pastoral village with a large area and a small population. This village is rich in natural resources such as copper, lead, zinc, iron, titanium and gold, and Chinese companies are engaged in large-scale mining in this area. Atush's mountainous countryside has been known to experience many earthquakes in recent years. Experts said that after the earthquake, the area will be ecologically damaged and the damage to the surrounding residents will be serious. 

According to the online information of the Seismological Bureau of the Uygur Autonomous Region, the earthquake points in the Uyghur region of 1.6 million square kilometers are divided into 5 regions. From north to south, there are the Altai Mountain earthquake zone, the South Tiantiantagh earthquake zone, and the West Kuinlun Mountain earthquake zone. However, this time, the earthquake that occurred on December 19 does not belong to the above earthquake points. From the current news, it is not known whether the Gansu and Qinghai earthquakes are related to the Atush earthquake.

China's Uyghur forced-labor intensive electric car battery and calendar industries are facing challenges

Over the past few years, the Chinese government has invested heavily in the production of electric vehicles and calendar materials, which are considered to be areas where forced labor is concentrated in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. That is, they have opened or expanded mining and production lines for lithium, silicon, nickel, copper, lead and other products in Hotan, Charlik, Tumshuq, and Sanji. The New Materials Industrial Park in Lopnur, Charlyk, has become one of its key lithium carbonate production bases.

However, according to the Hong Kong media, due to the sharp drop in the prices of materials for the production of calendars and electric car batteries in the international market, as well as the overproduction of such materials, the so-called Uyghur "excessive labor force" is one of the areas of deployment of the so-called Uyghur "excessive labor force" under the auspices of the Chinese state. The industry is facing challenges.

According to a recent report by Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post", China's top leaders at the "Central Economic Work Conference" held last week agreed that "overproduction in some industrial sectors" is one of the challenges to be solved in 2024. It turns out that the price of one ton of lithium carbonate, which is an important material for electric car batteries, was 83,500 dollars last year, but recently it has fallen to 14,000 dollars per ton. In July of this year, the Chinese government officially launched a lithium carbonate production project with an annual output of 120,000 tons in the New Materials Industrial Park in Lopnur, Charliq. Authorities said the project, which is China's largest lithium carbonate production line, has invested 4.6 billion yuan and will be officially launched in September this year.

People wipe the calendar in Tashkorghan Tajik Autonomous County, Kashgar Prefecture, November 24, 2022, Tashkorghan
People wipe the calendar in Tashkorghan Tajik Autonomous County, Kashgar Prefecture, November 24, 2022, Tashkorghan
Johannes Brenretuer, the founder and director of "Brenretuer Analysis Center", which specializes in the international polysilicon market in Germany, told reporters that this is an ongoing problem, and about 30 companies have withdrawn from the market due to falling prices. Johannes Brennertuer said in an interview on December 19: "First, 30 small-scale companies disappeared from the international market. Obviously, this is due to the fall in prices. In Europe itself, two companies in Norway have shut down due to falling prices. In Europe, China began to oversupply calendar products last year. "It's an ongoing problem."

But Brenretue said that although the price of calendar materials has fallen, the Chinese government has not yet regulated the policy of intervention in the situation.

"I have not seen the Chinese government intervene in this situation so far," Brenretueir said. I think it probably won't. But weaker companies may disappear from the market under the pressure of falling prices.

According to the "South China Morning Mail" newspaper, China's electric car and calendar industry still believes that strengthening exports is the most effective way to alleviate this pressure because the Chinese domestic market cannot consume these products. But according to international labor protection organizations, this would require China to either participate in international supply chains or continue forced labor. Alison Gale, director of legal affairs and researcher at Global Fair Labor and the International Labor Rights Forum, said China cannot go both ways at the same time.

Allison Gale said in an interview on December 19: "From a law enforcement point of view, the United States is clearly at risk. Therefore, the US government is strictly enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The EU is also in the final stages of passing legislation to ban the entry of forced labor products into the European market. More countries are implementing import restrictions or precautionary measures to require companies to be more transparent in their supply chains and prevent the risk of forced labor. Hopefully this pressure will turn China off course. China must choose between participating in global supply chains or continuing forced labor. He cannot choose between them.'' 

Currently, the focus is on how the falling prices of calendar and electric vehicle materials, as well as the challenges posed by China's overproduction, will affect construction projects in the Uyghur region and the Uyghur workforce in the field. Allison Gale said that there are currently some changes in the attitude of the Chinese government. Allison Gale says, "A number of reports, academic studies, and others suggest that some changes are occurring in the way it implements its forced labor program." Of course, we know that the Chinese government is very sensitive about this issue. Therefore, it has removed data, corporate reports and other information about the companies' participation in the forced labor program from the Internet. We're seeing, at least visually, that he's paying attention, that there's a significant shift in his supply chain attitudes, in the government's attitudes, especially in the supply chain agenda. "As companies transform their supply chains, we know they are transforming their supply chains."

But Allison Gell warned that the Uyghur people are still at risk of forced labor in the electric car battery and calendar industry, and it is impossible to audit the actual progress of these units. He said that this was confirmed by the recent investigation conducted by the human rights auditor of Germany's Markus Lo at the Volkswagen factory in Urumqi. Allison Gill: “We know that the risk of forced labor in the Uyghur calendar and electric vehicle battery industry is very high. But there is no way to evaluate these workplaces in a real way.

But Johannes Brenretuer believes that there has not been a fundamental change in the forced labor system in the Uyghur region of China. He said Chinese calendar companies have built two distinct supply chains because of the US ban. "Thus, Chinese calendar companies have built two distinct calendar product supply chains," says Johannes Renretuer. In one of these supply chains, Chinese companies are buying polysilicon products from non-Chinese companies, which they use for exports, particularly to the US. But the rest of the supply chain is running as usual. This means that there has been no fundamental change in the forced labor system in Xinjiang."

In the news, China is trying to expand its export channels and save its electric car battery and calendar industry, but it is said that it will face some obstacles in exporting. The Biden administration is known to have passed the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act and increased support for domestic new energy producers in the United States, while continuing a decision to impose tariffs on Chinese electric car batteries implemented under former US President Donald Trump. The report also states that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of the United States is one of the strongest obstacles to China's exports. It turns out that the law requires companies to verify that any products entering the U.S. market do not involve Uyghur forced labor.
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