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Government “drags its feet” against forced labor in China

Demonstration against the Uyghur genocide

The government is “dragging its feet” to take action against British companies linked to the use of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, lawmakers said.

In March, the Business Department (Beis) pledged to sanction companies that could not prove they had no connection with Xinjiang.

But he refused to commit to “clear deadlines and substantive actions,” said the Beis select committee.

A government spokesperson said it not only introduced measures against forced labor, but there are more to come.

Xinjiang in northwest China is home to the Muslim Uyghur population.

China has been accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its crackdown on Uyghurs – allegations it denies.

The committee said UK fashion, retail, media and tech companies could all be linked to the use of forced labor in Xinjiang and had called for fines and a blacklist of those that did not. not changed.

But as the government agreed to amend and strengthen the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, the Committee said its response had not gone far enough.

He also said ministers rejected most of the recommendations he made to improve oversight in a previous report.

“The fact that the government has rejected the majority of the recommendations is extremely disheartening,” said MP Nusrat Ghani, senior member of the Beis Committee on Forced Labor in the UK.

“Given the horrific evidence of abuse, it leaves something to be desired that the government is dragging its feet in proposing the harsh measures needed to help tackle forced labor exploitation in Xinjiang.”

Government “drags its feet” against forced labor in China

Map of China shows density of Uyghur population in Xinjiang region

The Committee, however, welcomed the government’s decision to impose targeted sanctions against perpetrators of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

He also welcomed the government’s support for a commitment to full transparency in terms of funding for overseas development assistance spent in China.

MPs said it was necessary to ensure that no government funds are used to support human rights violations.

Nonetheless, Ms Ghani said the government was failing to reassure customers “that they are not contributing to supply chains marred by modern slavery.”

She added that the answer “lets down” British companies trying to do the right thing and ensure their supply chains do not profit from forced labor.

However, a spokesperson for Beis said the UK was the first country in the world to require companies to report on how they tackle modern slavery and forced labor in their operations and supply chains, and go further.

“The evidence of the scale and gravity of human rights violations in Xinjiang paints a truly heartbreaking picture and the UK government will not support forced labor anywhere.

“In January, we announced a strong set of measures to ensure that no UK organization is complicit in the serious human rights violations perpetrated against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang and we are making proposals to strengthen the law in this regard. domain, ”he added. mentionned.

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