UN Xinjiang Report Still Awaited, But Another UN Expert Cites Forced Labor, ‘Enslavement’ Abuses

(CNSNews.com) – With time running out on the release of a long-awaited report on Xinjiang by the U.N.’s top human rights official, a separate U.N. expert has issued a finding that it was “reasonable to conclude” that ethnic minorities in the far-western Chinese region are victims of stated-backed forced labor.

Tomoya Obokata, the “special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery” said in a report that Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities were being put to forced labor in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, and that “some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.”

Obokata, a Japanese international law scholar, pointed to a state-mandated “vocational skills education and training center system, under which minorities are detained and subjected to work placements.”

Additionally, a “poverty alleviation through labor transfer system,” transfers surplus rural workers to others areas where labor is needed, he said, noting that he identified a similar situation in Tibet as well.

“While these programs may create employment opportunities for minorities and enhance their incomes, as claimed by the [Chinese] government, the special rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labor pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases,” Obokata wrote.


“Further, given 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, some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis.”

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fiercely disputes accusations of crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang, and denies documented allegations that more than one million minority Muslims have been incarcerated in camps there in recent years. 

It says its “vocational and education training centers” or “VETCs” in Xinjiang are part of a successful program designed to counter Islamic radicalism.

‘There has never been forced labor in Xinjiang’

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Wednesday lashed out at Obokata, saying that he had chosen to “believe in lies and disinformation about Xinjiang spread by the U.S. and some other Western countries and anti-China forces.”

Wang said the U.N. expert had abused his authority, maligned and denigrated China, and violated the code of conduct expected of U.N. special rapporteurs.

“There has never been forced labor in Xinjiang,” he said. “The Chinese government follows a people-centered development philosophy and attaches great importance to protecting the rights and interests of workers.”

Wang said critics of China have fabricated claims about Xinjiang, and were using human rights as a pretext to undermine the region’s prosperity “and contain China’s development and revitalization.”

“Their scheme will never succeed,” he said, urging Obokata to “stop serving certain countries’ political scheme to suppress and contain China by abusing the U.N. platform.”

Obokata’s report, which covers problems globally relating to “contemporary forms of slavery,” was prepared for submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s upcoming session in Geneva, which begins on September 12.

Before then, current U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s tenure runs out at the end of August.

With less than two weeks to go, there has still been no sign of her office’s long-promised report on Xinjiang, years in the making.

Last September, Bachelet told the HRC that the report was being finalized for public release. Almost a year later, it remains under wraps, and it was reported last month that Beijing has been urging Bachelet to bury it altogether.

Bachelet’s office said earlier this year that the report would have to go to the Chinese government for its input before publication, and she has committed to releasing it before her departure.

Earlier this month Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a letter to Bachelet called for the immediate release of the report.

“As you approach your departure as High Commissioner on August 31, the report remains buried while CCP diplomats reportedly conduct a flurry of confidential lobbying to halt its release,” he wrote.

“Do not let the CCP further taint your tenure as Commissioner by withholding the report a minute longer.” 

Controversy over the delayed report was compounded when Bachelet last May paid a long-anticipated visit to Xinjiang, but was accused by critics of submitting to Beijing’s restrictions and pulling her punches in an end-of-trip press briefing.

Using China’s own euphemistic terminology, she said she had been unable during her visit to assess “the full scale of the VETCs,” but that “the government assured me that the VETC system has been dismantled.”

Facing growing calls for her resignation, Bachelet days later announced that she would not stand for a second term when her current one ends on August 31 – although she said the decision had been taken before the China trip.


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