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Uyghur Forced Labor

  • 29 Feb 2024
  • 10 min read

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, A German vehicle brand (Volkswagen (VW)) based in China has been seized in the US due to Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA) violations.

  • Allegations have been made against several notable companies from the US and European Union including Apple and Zara (Spain) regarding their involvement in forced labour in Xinjiang province of China.
  • The U.S. State Department and UN Human Rights Commissioner’s reports highlight Uyghur repression as genocide and potential crimes against humanity.

Who are Uyghurs?

  • About:
    • The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim minority Turkic ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia.
      • The Uyghurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically closer to Central Asian nations than Han ethnic Chinese.
    • The Uyghurs are considered to be one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minority communities in China.
      • However, China recognizes the community only as a regional minority and rejects that they are an indigenous group.
    • Currently, the largest population of the Uyghur ethnic community lives in the Xinjiang region of China.
      • A significant population of Uyghurs also lives in the neighbouring Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
        • Xinjiang is technically an autonomous region within China — its largest region, rich in minerals, and sharing borders with eight countries, including India (Union Territory of Ladakh), Pakistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
  • China’s Move Against Human Rights of Uyghurs:
    • UN Report: A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that “serious human rights violations” against the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities have occurred in Xinjiang.
      • These violations include allegations of torture, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, and sexual and gender-based violence.
    • Arbitrary Detentions: The extent of arbitrary detentions against Uyghurs and others, coupled with restrictions on fundamental rights, may constitute crimes against humanity.
      • The Chinese government’s counter-extremism strategy involves the use of so-called Vocational Educational and Training Centers (VETCs) or re-education camps.
    • Interlocking Patterns of Restrictions: China’s policies in Xinjiang have led to severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. Even if the VETC system has been reduced, the underlying laws and policies remain, resulting in increased imprisonment and abuse since 2017.
    • Discrimination: The violations occur against the backdrop of broader discrimination targeting Uyghurs and other minorities.
      • The Chinese government’s assertion of targeting terrorists through its counter-extremism measures has raised serious concerns.
    • International Condemnation: Fifty-one UN member countries issued a joint declaration condemning China’s crimes against humanity committed against Uyghurs and other communities.
  • China's Response to the Allegations of Uyghers’ Human Rights Violation:
    • Beijing either denied the existence of the internment camps or dismissed such claims as outright falsehoods.
    • The government has described them as vocational training centres aimed at providing employment opportunities and addressing religious and separatist extremism among the Uyghur Muslim population.
    • In reaction to the global allegations, the Chinese government has relocated detainees to different regions within the country and redirected exports away from Xinjiang.

How are Different Nations Addressing Human Rights Violations Against the Uyghurs?

  • United States:
    • The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), directs the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to develop a strategy for supporting the enforcement of the prohibition on the importation of goods into the United States manufactured wholly or in part with forced labour in the People's Republic of China, especially from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
    • The law creates a presumption that importing goods from China, or made by certain entities in this region, is banned under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930.
      • Such goods, wares, articles, and merchandise are not entitled to entry to the United States.
      • The presumption applies unless the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determines, through clear and convincing evidence, that the goods, wares, articles, or merchandise were not produced using forced labour.
      • The Act seeks to penalize domestic companies for human rights abuses, such as torture, arbitrary detentions, and forced labour, affecting approximately one million Uyghur Muslims who have been held in the internment camps in the China’s north-western region.
    • The law seeks to utilise the definition of forced labour provided by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and focus on large corporations.
  • European Union:
    • In contrast to the U.S. ban, which primarily targets imports from Xinjiang, the European Union (EU) has put forward a broader law that addresses all products dependent on forced labour, including those manufactured within the 27-member bloc.
    • There is worry that bans targeting specific countries could be seen as discriminatory actions according to the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
    • EU-wide Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, addressing social, environmental, and human rights abuses in supply chains, has been at a standstill since 2022.

International Labour Organization

  • About:
    • International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919. It brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
    • Established:
      • 1919, by the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations.
      • Became the first affiliated specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946.
    • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
    • Founding Mission: Social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.
      • Promotes internationally recognized human and labour rights.
    • Nobel Peace Prize:
      • Received in 1969.
      • For improving peace among classes
      • Pursuing decent work and justice for workers
      • Providing technical assistance to other developing nations

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. Consider the following pairs: (2016)

Community sometimes in the affairs of mentioned in the news

  1. Kurd — Bangladesh
  2. Madhesi — Nepal
  3. Rohingya — Myanmar

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3
(d) 3 only

Ans: (c)

  • Kurd: They are one of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now South-eastern Turkey, North-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, North-western Iran and South-western Armenia. They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority is Sunni Muslims. Hence, pair 1 is not correctly matched.
  • Madhesi: It is an ethnic group living mainly in the southern plains of Nepal, close to the border with India. Madhesis are predominantly Hindus with some Muslims and Christians. Hence, pair 2 is correctly matched.
  • Rohingya: They are an ethnic group, largely comprising Muslims, who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine. They speak a dialect of Bengali, as opposed to the commonly spoken Burmese language. According to Myanmar authorities, they are not the authorised citizens of the country. Hence, pair 3 is correctly matched.

Therefore, option (c) is the correct answer.

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