Accusations that China is monitoring the forced labor of uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are credible and persuasive, a UN slavery expert has found.
in a report Before the UN General Assembly, Tomoya Obokata, the special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, said it was “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor was taking place in western China, where activists say more than one million ethnic minority Muslims have been held in internment camps.
Obokata said in that report, which was circulated Wednesday, that there was evidence of forced labor within the region’s system of “vocational education and training” centers and a poverty alleviation program involving the transfer of surplus rural workers to another worked.
While such programs created employment and income for ethnic minorities as the government claims, the evidence pointed to the work in many cases being “involuntary in nature,” the rapporteur said.
“Furthermore, given the nature and extent of the powers exercised over workers during forced labour, including excessive surveillance, abusive working and living conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical violence and/or sexual and other inhuman or degrading treatment, some cases may amount to slavery as a crime against humanity, warranting further independent analysis,” Obokata said.
Obokata said he reached his conclusion “on the basis of an independent assessment of available information,” including testimonies from victims, academic research and government accounts.
The rapporteur’s conclusions come after in recent years the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom imposed sanctions on officials and companies linked to alleged human rights violations in the region.
Alim Osman, president of the Victorian Uyghur Association in Melbourne, Australia, welcomed the UN report.
“We have been telling the world for years that China uses Uyghur slavery as an essential tool [that is] enable China’s economy and make the ongoing Uyghur genocide a profitable enterprise,” Osman told Al Jazeera.
“It is a relief to see the United Nations finally acknowledge the extent to which these atrocities are being committed. Tangible action is now needed to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for these crimes based on these recent findings.”
Fatimah Abdulghafur, a Uyghur activist based in Sydney, Australia, described the report as a “good start”.
“The UN report cannot change or stop the hellish situation of the Uyghurs in China-occupied East Turkestan, but this does not mean that the report is useless,” Abdulghafur told Al Jazeera, referring to Xinjiang by the name preferred by China. many Uyghurs. . “The UN report is an official record of the documentation of the Uyghur/East Turkistan crisis.”
China has denied accusations of human rights abuses, including genocide, and has credited its “vocational education and training centers” with reducing violent extremism and poverty.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused Obokata of believing in disinformation, abusing his authority and serving as a “political tool for anti-China forces.”
“The Chinese government follows a people-centered development philosophy and attaches great importance to protecting the rights and interests of workers,” Wang said during a regular press conference.
“We protect the equal right of workers of all ethnic groups to seek employment, participate in economic and social life, and share in the dividends of socioeconomic progress. Some forces manipulate Xinjiang-related issues and fabricated disinformation about ‘forced labor’ in Xinjiang.”
In his report, Obokata also highlighted the persistence of domestic servitude in the Gulf countries, Brazil and Colombia, and traditional slavery in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
He said forced or child marriage remained a concern in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bolivia, Colombia and Honduras.
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