Human rights

Australia: Acting against China’s abuses in Xinjiang

(Sydney) – The Australian government should take strong action in response to new evidence that the Chinese government is engaging crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in the Xinjiang region, Human Rights Watch said today. These actions should include imposing targeted sanctions, introducing legislation to prevent the importation of goods made with forced labor and leading efforts for accountability measures at the Human Rights Council session. United Nations man from September 12, 2022.

The groundbreaking UN report released on August 31 by outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet contained victim testimonies that substantiate mass arbitrary detention, torture, cultural persecution, forced labor and other serious human rights violations. It recommends that states, businesses and the international community take action to end abuses and advance justice and accountability.

“Australia should impose targeted sanctions against Chinese government officials who are implicated in crimes against humanity and other serious abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Sophie Richardson, director of the China Division at Human Rights Watch. “The European Union, United States, United Kingdom and Canada have already taken these steps, and Australia should join these efforts to hold those responsible for these abuses accountable and stand with the victims. “

In a coordinated effort in March 2021, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada imposed targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on senior Xinjiang officials accused of serious human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims.

In 2021, Australia passed “Magnitsky-style” legislation that reformed Australia’s sanctions framework, making it easier for the government to apply sanctions to those responsible for serious violations and abuses of human rights. man, wherever they occur in the world.

Following the release of the United Nations High Commissioner’s report, the Australian opposition party, the Coalition, reported that he would lend bipartisan support to any “appropriately targeted sanctions” that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government implements in response to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The government should also introduce legislation blocking the import of goods made by forced labor, both from Xinjiang and other places inside and outside China.

In the United States, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which took effect in June, gives customs authorities increased powers to enforce an existing ban on forced labor imports. The new law creates a presumption that any goods made in whole or in part in Xinjiang or produced by entities in China linked to forced labor cannot be imported into the United States. Companies can only rebut this presumption if they provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the goods are free of forced labor, an almost impossible hurdle to clear given the difficulty of performing human rights due diligence. man in Xinjiang and China more broadly.

Canada also bans the importation of goods produced in whole or in part by forced labor and, in January 2021, announced increased efforts to prevent companies from being complicit in or committing human rights abuses. profit in the Xinjiang region.

The UK has also introduced measures that include advising UK businesses on the risks faced by Xinjiang-linked businesses, advising public bodies on excluding suppliers if there is evidence of human rights abuses in their supply chains, a review of export controls to Xinjiang, and fines for companies that do not publish statements describing their efforts to eliminate forced labor in their supply chains.

Asked about the UN report on Xinjiang, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on September 6 that she was focusing on improving Australia’s modern slavery law to “ensure that we do not promote, condone or financially support work.” While the government’s review of the Modern Slavery Act may lead to positive developments, it will not be completed until March 2023. The Modern Slavery Act should be strengthened to compel businesses to identify and tackle against forced labor and other human rights risks in their environment. own operations and global value chains, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch urged the Australian government to pass new forced labor legislation that designates Xinjiang as a region with a high risk of forced labor, and to introduce a presumption of forced labor for imports made in whole or in part in Xinjiang.

Last year, the then-opposing Australian Labor Party voted in the Senate to support a bill introduced by Independent Senator Rex Patrick that would have banned the importation of goods made by forced labour.

Human Rights Watch also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide clear advice to Australian businesses on the risks of buying products or investing in Xinjiang, especially in high-risk sectors such as clothing manufacturing and the solar panel industry. Australian businesses should also be encouraged to join the ‘call to action to end Uyghur forced labour’.

Australia should also lead efforts at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent inquiry into China’s abuses in Xinjiang, taking all necessary steps to advance accountability and deliver to Uyghurs and others the justice to which they are entitled.

“The Australian government should walk the talk to help Uyghurs and other oppressed communities in Xinjiang,” Richardson said. “Australia should stand with a growing global coalition of nations that will not allow the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity to go unpunished.”