Satellite imagery showing a blue set of buildings. Text reads:

Forced Uyghur Labor in China’s Mask Supply Chain

Human Rights Investigations Lab 2020-2021

Student Investigations Lab Project

The Investigations Lab contributed to a New York Times investigation that found some Chinese companies used forced Uyghur labor to produce masks and other personal protective equipment, known as PPE. The visual investigation also identified a medical supply company that exported face masks to the U.S. state of Georgia from a factory in China’s Hubei Province, where Uyghur workers had been sent. The HRC Investigations Lab and the Uyghur Human Rights Project collected dozens of videos and social media reports documenting so-called labor transfers of Uyghur Muslims, the forced relocation of Uyghur people to factories—some of whom produce masks sent to the U.S. or sold on the internet. The Investigations Lab also delved into complex supply chain information to track the production and movement of PPE from China to Europe, the U.S., and Brazil.

For more than six months, Investigations Lab student leader Sang-Min Kim and Lab Coordinator John Ortilla collaborated to track the Uyghur labor program. Using satellite imagery and findings from NGOs and experts, they documented infrastructure and facilities. “Eventually, it was apparent to us that we had built up a collection of information that could help expose this opaque treatment of Uyghurs in China through using information found online,” said HRC Lab Coordinator John Ortilla. 

People make masks in a factory, Chinese lettering is present.
A screenshot from the New York Times Visual Investigation into forced Uyghur labor and P.P.E. supply chains.


Logo of Human Rights Center UC Berkeley School of Law
Uyghur Human Rights Project logo
The New York Times logo

Wearing a Mask? It May Come From China’s Controversial Labor Program

Our investigation with the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the New York Times revealed that several Chinese companies used Uyghur labor from a contentious government program to produce P.P.E. during the pandemic. We tracked some of that equipment to the U.S. and around the world.


Team Acknowledgements

Investigation Leads: Sang-Min Kim and Danil Cuffe

Staff Advisors: John Ortilla and Stephanie Croft


People make masks in a factory, Chinese lettering is present.

July 19, 2020

China Is Using Uighur Labor to Produce Face Masks

Investigations Lab in the News — New York Times: China Is Using Uighur Labor to Produce Face Masks, reporting with Investigations Lab research.