Britain fights pressured labor in Xinjiang, accuses China of “torture” and “barbarism”

Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, walks to Downing Street on September 3, 2019 in London, England.

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LONDON – The UK has put in place new measures to eradicate the presence of suspected forced labor in UK supply chains in China’s Xinjiang region.

China is accused of extrajudicial detention over 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in political re-education camps in the Northwest Autonomous Region, along with invasive surveillance, restrictions on Uyghur culture and the use of forced labor.

China firmly denies the allegations, claiming that the centers are aimed at combating extremism and promoting professional skills development.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic announced that companies with annual sales in excess of £ 36 million (US $ 49.2 million) that fail to demonstrate adequate diligence in ensuring the forced labor of their supply chains under the Modern Slavery Act are now being fined Raab an in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“We need to make sure that UK companies are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of detention camps in Xinjiang and that the products of human rights abuses that take place in those camps do not make it to the US supermarket shelves where we week.” shop here at home for a week, “said Raab.

The government will also launch an urgent review of export controls to prevent exports that could lead to human rights abuses, issue new guidelines for businesses operating in the region, and extend the Modern Slavery Act to the public sector unless businesses are forced out of industrial relations public contracts.

“Really terrible”

Raab claimed the evidence is now “extensive” and “paints a truly harrowing picture”, accusing China of operating internment camps, arbitrary detentions, political re-education, forced labor, torture and forced sterilization on an industrial scale.

“It’s really terrible – the barbarism we had hoped was lost in another era that is practiced today as we speak in one of the leading members of the international community,” he added.

Raab cited first-hand reports from diplomats and escaped victims, satellite images of factories in internment camps and the destruction of mosques, and reports from third parties from the UN Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Raab stressed that China’s refusal to allow access to a UN human rights officer or any other credible external agency was inconsistent with these claims.

“China cannot simply deny access to trusted third party agencies that can verify the facts while maintaining a position of credible denial,” he added.

A protester outside the White House urges the United States to take action to stop the suppression of the Uyghurs and other Turkish peoples on August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Raab’s actions have stopped sanctioning individual Chinese officials for their involvement in the alleged atrocities, and Labour’s shadow foreign minister Lisa Nandy alleged that her counterpart had not gone far enough, likening Raab’s actions to “tinkering with the margins”.

The presence of Uyghur forced labor in international supply chains has been the target of a number of important governments in recent years. In late 2020, several US companies came under fire for allegedly lobbying to weaken a bipartisan bill banning imports from Xinjiang.

“Some US politicians have created disinformation about so-called ‘forced labor’ in order to restrict and suppress relevant parties and companies in China and to curb China’s development,” Hua Chunying, spokesman for the Chinese State Department, told CNBC in December.

“All ethnic groups in Xinjiang choose their occupations at their own will and sign ’employment contracts’ based on equality of their own choosing.”

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