European Parliament Takes a Stand Against Uyghur Forced Labor

On December 17, 2020, the European Parliament took its strongest stance against forced Uyghur labor in the Xinjiang region of China by adopting a bill titled European Parliament resolution of 17 December 2020 on forced labour and the situation of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Human Rights and religious freedom advocates around the world have welcomed the resolution as a next step in global recognition of the Uyghur crisis and condemnation of the Chinese Communist Party’s oppressive and inhumane policies.

“The European Parliament, whereas the situation in Xinjiang, where more than 10 million Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs live, has rapidly deteriorated, particularly since the launch of the Chinese Government’s ‘Strike Hard against Violent Terrorism’ campaign in 2014, and whereas Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghurs Autonomous Region have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, egregious restrictions on religious practice and culture, and a digitalised surveillance system so pervasive that every aspect of daily life is monitored….;

“whereas China is one of the world’s largest cotton producers, with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region accounting for over 20% of global cotton production;…whereas three Uyghur regions alone mobilised at lease 570,000 persons into cotton-picking operations through the government’s coercive labour training and transfer scheme in 2018 alone; whereas Xinjiang’s total labour transfer of ethnic minorities into cotton picking likely exceeds that figure by several hundred thousand, making forced labour an intrinsic and generalised characteristic of cotton harvesting in the Xinjiang Uyghurs Autonomous Region; whereas 84% of Chinese cotton comes from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which means that the yarn, textiles and garments made with Chinese cotton are at extraordinarily high risk of being tainted with forced and prison labour, whether manufactured in China or anywhere else in the world;

Strongly condemns the government-led system of forced labour, in particular the exploitation of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups, in factories both within and outside of internment camps in Xinjiang, as well as the transfer of forced labourers to other Chinese administrative divisions, and the fact that well-known European brands and companies have been benefiting from the use of forced labour;…

The European Union’s decisive action on the issue follows in the footsteps of the United States, who has taken a variety of steps to condemn the forced labor of Uyghurs in China, including (1) issuing Withhold Release Orders to prevent Chinese goods tainted with forced labor from reaching the American consumer market; (2) leveling sanctions against Chinese government officials known for their role in overseeing the persecution of Uyghur and other Muslim communities in Xinjiang; (3) passing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 in the Senate; (4) and introducing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which has passed House and is currently in the Senate.

Cover photo by numb3r on Flickr.