Minorities have been drafted into forced labor 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 sterilization of women and coerced labour.
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 labor has occurred, citing think tank and NGO reports as well as victims.
“While these programs may create employment opportunities for minorities and enhance their incomes… the special rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labor pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases,” the report said.
The report noted a similar labor transfer system exists in Tibet, where the “programme has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment”.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Wednesday accused Obokata of “choosing to believe lies and disinformation manufactured by the US… as well as anti-China forces”.
China has long claimed it was running vocational training centers in Xinjiang to counter extremism, with President Xi Jinping visiting the region last month and hailing the “great progress” made in reform and development.
Her trip was criticized 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.
Originally published as Forced labour, possible ‘enslavement’ in China’s Xinjiang: UN expert