The UN’s independent human rights expert on slavery has denounced the use of forced labor by minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing immediately rejected the conclusions of Tomoya Obokata, the Japanese expert on human trafficking commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Obokata writes in a new report: “The Special Rapporteur considers it reasonable to conclude that forced labor has occurred among Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.”
According to Obokata, it communicated with those affected, read independent investigative reports and consulted government documents.
Human rights activists say hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and members of other minorities have been sent to re-education camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.
The Chinese leadership complains about separatism, extremism and terrorism in the region. On the other hand, the Muslim Uyghur minority living there feels politically, religiously and culturally oppressed. After coming to power in Beijing in 1949, the communists incorporated the former East Turkestan into the People’s Republic.
“Employment for low wages”
Obokata discusses the job creation institutions and programs China has called “vocational training centers” that Beijing says are designed to fight poverty. People are being taken from their homes elsewhere and hired at low wages, he wrote.
The workers are excessively controlled, live and work in poor conditions and are exposed to threats and physical or sexual violence. “In some cases, slavery can be a crime against humanity that deserves further independent analysis,” it said.
The report deals generally with contemporary forms of slavery, the victims of which belong to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. The rapporteur also mentions many other countries, including Mali, Niger, Brazil and Bangladesh.
Spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Lies and disinformation”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Obokata “chooses to believe the lies and misinformation fabricated by the US, some Western countries and anti-Chinese forces”. He abuses his power, denigrates China and acts as a “political tool” of anti-Chinese forces. “There has never been forced labor in Xinjiang,” the spokesman said.
China protects the rights of workers and members of minorities. Some forces have used human rights to undermine prosperity and stability in Xinjiang and curb China’s development.