ISSN 2330-717X

UN Expert Says East Turkistan Forced Labor Claims ‘Reasonable’

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A United Nations slavery expert has found claims of forced labor in East Turkistan (renamed Xinjiang)* to be “reasonable,” in one of the clearest critiques of China’s human rights practices from within the world body.

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The United Nations Special Rapporteur’s Report on Contemporary Forms of Slavery concluded that forced labor of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples is taking place in Occupied East Turkistan.

The report on contemporary forms of slavery and its consequences was published by Special Rapporteur Tomoya Obokata ahead of the upcoming 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

On China’s forced labor in East Turkistan, the report stated “the nature and extent of powers exercised over affected workers during forced labor, including excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment.” The report concluded that “some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.” 

In May 2014, the Chinese government launched an official campaign of genocide as the so-called “People’s War,” targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other non-Chinese ethnic groups in Occupied East Turkistan. According to a Chinese government white paper, since 2014, China forcibly sent 1.29 million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples to so-called “vocational training and re-education camps.”

Detainees in the camps have been subjected to extrajudicial imprisonment, forced labor, excessive surveillance, torture, sexual violence, organ harvesting, and even summary execution. 

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“Special Rapporteur Obokata’s report confirms that China is subjecting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples to forced labor, slavery, and other crimes against humanity in Occupied East Turkistan,” said President Ghulam Yaghma of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. “In light of this report, we again call on the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention to respond to China’s ongoing genocide and other crimes against humanity in East Turkistan and urge the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly to uphold its commitments under the U.N. Genocide Convention.”  

The new U.N. Special Rapporteur’s report comes after consistent calls by the East Turkistan Government in Exile and other international governments and human rights organizations urging the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to release a report on China’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkistan. 

Bachelet promised to release a report on China’s atrocities in East Turkistan before stepping down later this month. 

“For years, the U.N. had been a silent spectator to China’s ongoing genocide and atrocities in East Turkistan; the East Turkistani people see this new report as a progress by the U.N. and hope for an immediate and coherent response to the humanitarian crisis in East Turkistan,” said Dr. Mamtimin Ala, the E.U. Representative of the East Turkistan Government in Exile.

“We again call on the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights to immediately publish its report on China’s ongoing genocide and other crimes against humanity in East Turkistan,” said Prime Minister Salih Hudayar of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. “The U.N. must uphold its commitments and act to end this humanitarian crisis,” he added.

The East Turkistan Government in Exile calls on the U.N. and its member states to support East Turkistan’s formal genocide complaint against Chinese officials at International Criminal Court.

The ETGE also calls on the U.N. Security Council to bring the East Turkistan issue to the agenda of the U.N. Security Council as well as calling on the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution formally condemning and recognizing China’s atrocities against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples as genocide and crimes against humanity. 

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), under the direct authorization of General Secretary Xi Jinping, unlawfully imprisoned well over a million Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic groups in camps in East Turkistan (renamed Xinjiang), where they are forced into slave labor, reeducation campaigns, organ harvesting, rape, and forced sterilization. Some reports indicate that the number detained is as high as three million.

The CCP also seeks to kidnap Uyghurs living abroad to force them to return to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. State Department chose not to name the PRC as a state sponsor of human trafficking in its 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.  

The US is among several countries to have previously accused China of committing genocide in East Turkistan, reports the BBC. The leading human rights groups Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have published reports accusing China of crimes against humanity.

* East Turkistan was renamed Xinjiang in 1949 after China’s occupation.

* China’s ongoing campaign of crimes against humanity has also targeted Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and free speech advocates. 

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