VOC Welcomes UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Contemporary Forms of Slavery Concluding that Forced Labor is Occurring in Uyghur Region of China

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) welcomes the publication last week for the Human Rights Council’s 51st session of the UN Special Rapporteur Report on contemporary forms of slavery, which concludes that forced labor among Uyghur, Kazakh, and other ethnic minorities is occurring in Xinjiang, the Uyghur Region of China.

Amb. Andrew Bremberg, President and CEO of VOC, stated “the report from Special Rapporteur Tomoya Obokata is one of the strongest critiques of China’s human rights practices to date from the United Nations. We urge Member States to respond to the findings of this report by adopting an import ban on goods made in Xinjiang, similar to the US Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We also urge High Commissioner Bachelet to reflect the findings of this report in the long overdue report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, and to release the report without further delay.”

The report finds that Uyghur, Kazakh, and other ethnic minorities are being used for forced labor in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, and that “some instances [of forced labor] may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis.”

Citing the research on both Xinjiang and Tibet of Dr. Adrian Zenz, Director and Senior Fellow in China Studies at VOC, the report adopts Dr. Zenz’s conceptual framing of Uyghur forced labor as two distinct State-mandated systems: “(a) the vocational skills education and training center system, under which minorities are detained and subjected to work placements; and (b) the poverty alleviation through labor transfer system, where surplus rural laborers are transferred into secondary or tertiary sector work.”

Dr. Adrian Zenz stated, “this report is an extremely significant and strong assessment, and sets a very important precedent. It finds that there is reasonable evidence to conclude that forced labor is taking place in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, that there is a similar program existing in Tibet, and that in some cases the situation may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.”

The report comes nearly four days after China ratified two International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on forced labor, one of which is designed to counter state-sponsored forced labor, forbidding its use for political aims and economic development. The other convention prohibits the use of forced labor in all forms and requires state parties to make forced labor practices punishable as a penal offense. The findings in the Special Rapporteur report other evidence should be the basis for immediate action by the ILO to hold China accountable for its flagrant and egregious violation of the two international conventions it has just ratified.