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

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

Beijing is accused of detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
Beijing is accused of detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

GENEVA: Minorities have been drafted into forced labour in China's Xinjiang region in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, a report by an independent UN expert has concluded, in what it said 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 carrying out forced sterilisation of women and coerced labour.

The United States and lawmakers in other western countries have gone as far as accusing China of committing "genocide" against the minority groups, allegations that Beijing denies.

The report released Tuesday by UN special rapporteur on modern slavery Tomoya Obokata pointed to two "distinct state-mandated systems" in China in which forced labour has occurred, citing think tank and NGO reports as well as victims.

One is a vocational skills education and training centre system in which minorities are detained and subject to work placements, while another involves attempts to reduce poverty through labour transfer, in which rural workers are moved into "secondary or tertiary work".

"While these programmes may create employment opportunities for minorities and enhance their incomes... the special rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labour pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases," the report said.

The nature and extent of powers exercised over the workers -- including excessive surveillance and abusive living and working conditions -- could "amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis", it said.

The report noted a similar labour transfer system exists in Tibet, where the "programme has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment".

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

China has long insisted it was running vocational training centres in Xinjiang designed to counter extremism, with President Xi Jinping visiting the region last month and hailing the "great progress" made in reform and development.

In May, the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet concluded a rare six-day visit to China that also took her to Xinjiang.

Her trip was criticised by the United States and major rights groups for a lack of firmness towards Beijing, with critics saying she visited more as a diplomat rather than a human rights champion.

Bachelet is due to publish a long-awaited report on the issue before she steps down at the end of the month.


Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (22)

TAT banking on e-visas

With Malaysian tourists becoming the first source market to reach 1 million and reopening of more countries in sight, Thai tourism could realise an even stronger rebound among the Asian market if e-visas are adopted and international flights resume.

09:15

'Good Bye, Lenin!' Finland ditches last statue of Soviet leader

KOTKA, Finland: Finland on Tuesday tore down its last public statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, as dozens gathered in the southeastern city of Kotka to watch its removal.

08:15

Diversification drive persists

National oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc is pushing ahead with non-oil businesses, which are set to become a new source of revenue and keep the company in line with the global trend towards clean energy.

08:07