Geneva: An annual report from the United Nations labour agency Friday highlighted the work conditions of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region, noting signs of “coercive measures” that deprive workers of free choice in selecting jobs and calling on Beijing to provide more information about how it’s respecting their rights.
The report from an International Labour Organisation committee of experts tasked with helping countries uphold their own international commitments emphasised the labour rights aspect of China’s policies in Xinjiang.
Advocacy groups and Western governments, among others, have voiced human rights concerns over the treatment of the region’s Muslims.
The 870-page report also chronicled an array of concerns about scores of countries that in effect were urged to improve workplace and job conditions.
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The 20-member committee of independent international experts cited the Chinese government’s defence, given in a different report, of what it calls vocational training centres in Xinjiang. Beijing says the centres are intended to help improve economic conditions and defuse extremist violence in the region.
“The committee takes due note of the view expressed in the government’s report that some forces recklessly sensationalise the so-called “forced labour” issue in Xinjiang on various occasions,’ adding that this is nothing but a downright lie, a dirty trick with ulterior motives,’” the International Labour Organisation document states.
“The committee is bound to observe, however, that the employment situation of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China provides numerous indications of coercive measures, many of which arise from regulatory and policy documents,” the ILA experts wrote.
They said “various indicators” pointed to the relocation of workers under security escort, the strict surveillance and “retention” of workers, and “the threat of internment in vocational education and training centres if workers do not accept government administration.’” The committee called on China’s government to provide more information about how its policies support “freely chosen employment” and prevents forced labour, and to provide information about the types of courses Uyghurs attend at the training centres, and number of participants.
A spokesperson for the Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva, where the UN agency is based, did not immediately respond to an email and voice message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The United States, which has repeatedly decried the conditions faced by Uyghurs, quickly responded to Friday’s report.
The State Department issued a statement “to reiterate our call for the (People’s Republic of China) to end its genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang”, as well as its use of “forced labour”.