China News

UN independent human rights experts have found the allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang constitute modern slavery

3 Min
UN independent human rights experts have found the allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang  constitute modern slavery

A new report released by an independent United Nations agency on Tuesday (August 16) shows that ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region are subjected to forced labor and physical and sexual violence, as well as other “inhuman and degrading treatment,” which could constitute modern forms of slavery.

In a 20-page report, Tomoya Obokata, a UN human rights expert and UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, said, “The Special Rapporteur believes there is reason to conclude that forced labor by Uyghur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in agriculture and manufacturing has been taking place in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”

The report’s findings are based on an independent assessment of the information available, including documents submitted by stakeholders, victim testimony, and government claims.

The report was dated July 19, and on August 16; it was posted on Xiao Bao Fang’s Twitter account. The report was prepared for the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, held from 12 September to 7 October.

Members of these ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are detained by the authorities and placed in the authorities’ mandatory vocational skills education and training system and poverty alleviation programs, the report said. These projects place excess agricultural labor in industries with labor shortages.

The report said that while Xinjiang authorities have improved employment opportunities for ethnic minorities, the involuntary nature of these employment programs suggests the existence of forced labor.

“These projects may have created employment opportunities and increased incomes for minorities, as claimed by the Government, but the Special Rapporteur believes that forced labour, as indicated by involuntary labour directed to these affected communities, has persisted in many cases,” the report said. The

report also said these involuntary workers endured “excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restrictions on movement through detention, physical and/or sexual violence, and other inhuman or degrading treatment.”

In some cases, the report adds, the conditions faced by these efforts “may amount to slavery for crimes against humanity and should be further independently analysed”.

The report also said the same measures exist in Tibet, which is adjacent to Xinjiang. In Tibet, an extensive labor transfer program places Tibetan farmers, herders and other rural labourers in low-skilled and low-wage employment.

In recent years, many international scholars and human rights organizations on Xinjiang have based on research and analysis of obtained data and satellite imagery, accusing the CHINESE authorities of imprisoning one to two million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang in “re-education camps” and forcing them to undergo political and brainwashing of Uighur culture and Islam.

Some countries, including the United States, have characterized China’s massive and systematic abuse of Uighurs as genocide and crimes against humanity. The United States imposed sanctions in 2020 and 2021 on Chinese officials accused of human rights persecution in Xinjiang and banned the import of Xinjiang products suspected of using forced labor.

Beijing denies mass detention of Uighurs, calling allegations of uighur abuse fabricated by “anti-China forces” and claiming that Uighurs are sent to “vocational training centers” to “de-radicalize” and “fight terrorism” and learn “new job skills and Chinese.”

The report also comes at a time when international human rights organizations, especially Uighur activists and organizations, are waiting for the UN High Commissioner for Personalities, Michelle Bachelet, to publish a long-delayed report on the persecution of human rights in Xinjiang.

Bachelet initially informed the UN Human Rights Council in September 2021 that her office was close to completing its human rights assessment report in Xinjiang. Three months later, her spokesman said it would be released in a matter of weeks, but Bachelet’s Xinjiang human rights assessment report remained unpublished until now.

A OHCHR spokesman, Liz Throssell, told VOA recently that Bachelet has promised to publish the report before the end of her term at the end of August.

And just before the release of OHCHR report, China has stepped up pressure on Bachelet to abandon the publication of the Xinjiang human rights report..

Beijing sent a letter to Bachelet last month asking her not to publish her assessment of the human rights situation in Xinjiang because of “serious concerns” about the further politicization of human rights in China, Reuters reported.

Bachelet was able to travel to Xinjiang in May after years of so-called “unrestricted access” to the Uighur region of Xinjiang.

But during the visit, international human rights groups accused Bachelet of being weak on China, manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party and unable to travel freely to the areas she wished to travel, and urged her to “publicly acknowledge the scale and seriousness of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.”

Critics also say that while in China, Bachelet used Chinese terminology to refer to the Xinjiang detention center as a “vocational and educational training center” and asked the Beijing government to review counterterrorism measures. Bachelet, a former pediatrician and president of Chile, also praised China’s achievements in poverty alleviation and health care.

Since she became the U.N. high commissioner for human rights in 2018, Bachelet has not publicly condemned the widely reported allegations of human rights abuses faced by Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, causing an uproar on social media.

The U.S. State Department has also expressed concern that Bachelet and her team’s visit to China has been restricted and manipulated by China.###

— VOA report