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Forced labour, possible ‘enslavement’ in China’s Xinjiang: UN expert

#Forced #labour #enslavement #Chinas #Xinjiang #expert

In China’s Xinjiang region, minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing have been conscripted into forced labour, according to a report by an independent UN expert, which could amount to “enslavement as a crime against humanity”.

Beijing has been accused of detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, as well as conducting forced sterilizations of women and forced labour.

The United States and lawmakers in other Western countries have gone so far as to accuse China of committing “genocide” against the minorities, allegations Beijing denies.

The report released on Tuesday by the UN Special Rapporteur on Modern Slavery, Tomoya Obokata, pointed to two “distinct state-mandated systems” in China where forced labor took place, citing reports from think tanks and NGOs, as well as victims.

One is a system of vocational education and training centers where minorities are imprisoned and do internships, while another seeks to reduce poverty through labor transfers, where farm workers are placed in “secondary or tertiary work”.

“Although these programs can create employment opportunities for minorities and improve their incomes… the Special Rapporteur believes that in many cases there was evidence of forced labour, which points to the involuntary nature of the work performed by the affected communities,” says the report .

The nature and extent of the powers exercised over the workers – including excessive surveillance and abusive living and working conditions – “could amount to enslavement as crimes against humanity and merit further independent analysis,” it said.

The report notes that a similar labor transfer system exists in Tibet, where the “program has mainly transferred farmers, pastoralists and other rural workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment.”

Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the world body.

China has long insisted that it runs vocational training centers in Xinjiang geared towards countering extremism, with President Xi Jinping visiting the region last month and hailing “great progress” in reform and development.

In May, United Nations Human Rights Envoy Michelle Bachelet concluded a rare six-day visit to China that also took her to Xinjiang.

Her trip drew criticism from the United States and major rights groups for a lack of determination towards Beijing, with critics saying she was there more as a diplomat than a human rights advocate.

Bachelet will publish a long-awaited report on the subject before she resigns at the end of the month.

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