UN on China’s mistreatment of Uyghur ethnic group

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Uyghur women work in a fabric factory in Hotan County, Xinjiang Province, China. / Azamat Imanaliev/Shutterstock

A new United Nations report on modern slavery adds to evidence of China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur ethnic group, a Muslim minority that some human rights organizations say is being genocided .

The UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Dr. Tomoya Obokata, has written that it is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor among ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, “in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing occurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.

Obokata acknowledged two state-mandated mechanisms that have contributed to Uyghur forced labor: one that detains minorities and places them in internships, and another that pushes rural workers into other low-skilled and poorly employed jobs. remunerated.

While the Chinese government maintains that the programs provide employment opportunities for minorities, the survey found that “indicators of forced labor highlighting the involuntary nature of the work performed by the affected communities were present in many cases.

“Further, given the nature and extent of the powers exercised over the workers involved during forced labor, including excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restrictions of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment, some cases may constitute enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting further independent analysis,” the report states.

Uyghurs have been imprisoned in hundreds of “re-education camps” in China’s Xinjiang, a sparsely populated autonomous province in the far west of the country, in recent years, with estimates reaching 1.8 million. Torture and political indoctrination would be practiced inside the facilities. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by police and facial recognition technology.

For many years, China has associated Uyghur culture and religious activities with extremism and secession. The government initially denied the existence of the camps, but later defended its actions as a justifiable reaction to a danger to national security.

In January 2021, the United States officially designated China’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide.

The Chinese crackdown in Xinjiang would involve pressure for the implantation of contraceptive devices, as well as full sterilization and systematic rape. According to a former hospital worker in the area, hospitals in the province allegedly performed forced late-term abortions on Uyghur women and murdered Uyghur newborn babies in order to follow Chinese family planning regulations. Uyghur women, who had one of the highest fertility rates in the country, have seen their fertility rates drop in recent years.

The Vatican has been silent on the oppression of Uyghurs, but Pope Francis called them a persecuted people in a book published in 2021. China’s foreign ministry responded by saying the report was false.

Two Asian cardinals and 74 other religious leaders issued a statement in August 2020 condemning China’s activities in Xinjiang, calling the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust”. .

The United Nations report documented several other forms of modern slavery, including sexual slavery perpetrated by groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram in the Middle East and Nigeria, as well as the plight of women and girls belonging to to minorities in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar Regions who have been “subjected to rape, sexual mutilation and other forms of sexual violence by parties to the armed conflict”.

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