Human Trafficking, Human Rights Council, Human Rights Abuses, Xinjiang Region, Beijing, Human Rights Abuses, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Global Brands, South China Morning Post, Forced Labour, China, China

Human Trafficking, Human Rights Council

UN panel warns that ‘well-known global brands’ may be linked to Xinjiang human rights abuses

Investigations have also shown how global supply chains running through Xinjiang are not limited to cotton, a key industry in China’s far northwestern region.

30/3/2021 5:30:00 AM

Investigations have also shown how global supply chains running through Xinjiang are not limited to cotton, a key industry in China ’s far northwestern region.

Scores of Chinese and foreign companies producing “well-known global brands ” may be involved in human trafficking , forced labour and other human rights abuses in China ’s Xinjiang region, a United Nations working group said on Monday, calling more attention to an issue that Beijing is increasingly on the defensive about. “Several experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said they had received information that connected over 150 domestic Chinese and foreign domiciled companies to serious allegations of human rights abuses against Uygur workers,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said. No specific companies were named, but the working group mentioned the sectors of agribusiness, tech, automotive, and textile and garment. Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “Uygur workers have reportedly been subjected to exploitative working and abusive living conditions that may constitute arbitrary detention, human trafficking , forced labour and enslavement by the use of forced labour ,” according to the statement about findings gathered by the OHCHR’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The independent sources used by the UN working group said that “hundreds of thousands of members of the Uygur minority have been held in ‘re-education’ facilities” and that “many have also reportedly been forcibly transferred to work in factories in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and in other Chinese provinces”. Members of the working group have written to China ’s government; businesses whose supply chains include entities in Xinjiang; and the governments of 13 other countries where the companies are headquartered “to ensure that businesses under their territory and/or jurisdiction respect all human rights throughout their operations”,

AdFür Ihre tägliche Effizienz | Mehr erfahrenSouth China Morning PostChinese branch of Better Cotton Initiative challenges headquarters and says it has found no evidence of Xinjiang forced labourThe Chinese branch of an organisation set up to promote good practice in the cotton industry has publicly split with its headquarters over claims of forced labour in Xinjiang, insisting that it has found no evidence it is taking place. The rift between the Better Cotton Initiative’s headquarters in Geneva and the Shanghai branch, whose claims were heavily promoted by Chinese state media, highlights the difficulty international organisations face when dealing with sensitive topics such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong that Beijing insists are purely internal matters. In a report aired by state broadcaster China Central Television on Saturday, Wu Yan, the head of the BCI’s Shanghai branch, said: “In response to overseas claims about forced labour concerns in Xinjiang, we have repeatedly conducted stringent inspections and submitted two of our investigation reports and compiled years of reports from third-party visits.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “We have also repeatedly told international non-government organisations as well as other stakeholders that we haven’t identified one single case of forced labour.” China produces 22 per cent of the world’s cotton, of which 84 per cent comes from Xinjiang, according to a report by the US-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Last year the BCI’s central office said independent research had corroborated its own conclusions that there was an increasing risk of forced labour on farms in Xinjiang. Two statements, issued in October and December but since deleted from its website, also said that it had stopped licensing Xinjiang cotton production last March and had stopped field-level activities in China in October. But the Shanghai office published two statements on the Chinese social media platform WeChat this month saying it had not found any evidence of forced labour in Xinjiang since audits began in 2012. When asked for comment, Joe Woodruff, BCI’s London-based communications manager, did not address the contradictory positions but said the group had a “constructive dialogue” with stakeholders in China. Huawei removes Nike and Adidas from its app store amid Xinjiang boycott “BCI is committed to promoting sustainable agriculture everywhere cotton is grown, including in China. In partnership with qualified local actors, we run field programmes which aim to deliver positive, measurable change to the environment and to the livelihoods and well-being of farming communities,” Woodruff said. “In China, we are currently focusing our efforts on the provinces of Hubei, Hebei, Shandong and Gansu. BCI supports over 100,000 smallholder farmers in these provinces. We are engaging in a constructive dialogue with all interested local actors across China.” Wu has not responded to requests for comment. After the BCI stopped licensing Xinjiang cotton production, its members, including H&M, Nike, Adidas and Burberry, all said they had stopped using cotton from Xinjiang in line with the group’s guidelines. But last week, these firms’ statements on the matter were revived as part of a state-backed campaign on Chinese social media calling for a boycott of these brands. On Monday, Xu Guixiang, a Xinjiang government spokesman, warned H&M and other Western companies in a press briefing in Beijing that the “era of bullying” by foreign powers was over and wielding the “big stick of sanctions” against Xinjiang would hurt the businesses that did so. Is this the next Xinjiang product to upend global supply chains? The CCTV report and a story in Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, also tried to blame human rights organisations and Washington for manipulating the BCI. Liu Haoran, a project manager at the Shanghai branch, told CCTV that “human rights groups have asked the BCI to suspend Xinjiang cotton licensing” but did not present any evidence. Fan Di, an assistant professor with Hong Kong Polytechnic University specialising in fashion retail and marketing, said he was shocked to see such a severe internal divide within the BCI, which was designed to minimise the risk of corporate social responsibility scandals. “This method has backfired on the brand names and exposed them to even greater political maelstroms,” Fan said.Fan said the international firms should have conducted their own independent audits and carried out first-hand investigations rather than relying on a third-party service supplier like the BCI. Fan said he could understand the “strategic considerations” behind the decision to suspend licensing for Xinjiang cotton before the controversy affected supply chains. “With inadequate information to make an informed decision, they might think it’s better to suspend Xinjiang’s cotton assurance before it’s too late,” Fan added. Frank Hoffer, a research fellow at the Global Labour University and a former International Labour Organization official, said investigating and verifying allegations of human rights violations would be difficult and sensitive in authoritarian countries.“Investigators may face limits on their movements and workers are likely to be hesitant in speaking up as they might be fearful or intimidated,” Hoffer said.Hoffer said the BCI’s Shanghai office would also have considered the repercussions on speaking out about forced labour.“It’s a judgment call in terms of what can still be done under the given political circumstances,” he said. Washington condemns China’s ‘baseless sanctions’ over Xinjiang Human rights groups, the United Nations and victim testimonials have accused China of detaining about a million Uygurs and other Muslim minorities in camps, where they have allegedly been subjected to indoctrination, torture and forced labour. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a motion passed by the Canadian parliament have both described Beijing’s policies in the region as “genocide”. China denies the allegations and insists the camps are used for vocational training and to counter extremism. Additional reporting by Linda LewMore from South China Morning Post:Xinjiang cotton dispute: the ‘era of bullying China’ is over, officials warn the WestHuawei removes Nike and Adidas from its app store amid Xinjiang cotton controversyChinese boycott against Nike and Adidas over Xinjiang cotton appears to be losing steamXinjiang cotton row: Nike’s ties with Chinese sport too hard to cutThis article Chinese branch of Better Cotton Initiative challenges headquarters and says it has found no evidence of Xinjiang forced labour first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.

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15 hours agoChina’s SWIFT joint venture ‘defensive move’ against US refuted by former bank executiveA theory that China’s latest joint venture with the SWIFT financial messaging service is a defensive move against the United States has been refuted by a former Chinese bank executive, who insists the move is actually part of efforts to promote the internalisation of the yuan and the development of the nation’s digital currency. Last week, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced a newly established joint venture with Belgium-based SWIFT financial messaging service and four Chinese institutions that will see a financial messaging services set up through a local network. A localised data warehouse to monitor and analyse cross-border payment messaging will also be established in an effort to make transactions more stable and secure. [The joint venture is rather to] strengthen cooperation with SWIFT and jointly promote the internationalisation of the [yuan] and the development of the digital currency”, Wang Yongli, a former vice-president with the Bank of China and a former SWIFT board member, said on Sunday. Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. “It is obviously not in response to the US cutting off SWIFT’s connection to China.” The joint venture comes amid China’s ongoing tensions with the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada over the alleged forced labour issue in China’s Xinjiang region, relations which had already been strained by Beijing’s political crackdown on Hong Kong. The move sparked some speculation and debate, with some arguing that it was a “precautionary measure” against the US cutting off China’s access to SWIFT. Others argued that there was no need for the central bank to cooperate with the US dollar-dominated SWIFT, and instead China should speed up the establishment of its own international payment clearing system to make preparations for the worst-case scenario if tensions spiral out of control and the US imposes economic and financial sanctions on Chinese entities. Accelerating the internationalisation of the yuan, according to Wang, would require the support of the China International Payment System (CIPS), a Chinese financial telecommunications and payment platform offering clearing and settlement services for cross-border yuan transactions. If SWIFT cuts off the connection with China in extreme cases, it will not be difficult to form an alternative messaging service network Wang Yongli Since 2016, CIPS has adopted SWIFT as a secure communication channel between participating financial institutions. “We should actively extend CIPS to SWIFT member units with the help of SWIFT to establish a global yuan clearing and settlement system. After that, even if SWIFT cuts off the connection with China in extreme cases, it will not be difficult to form an alternative messaging service network,” Wang added. A survey of 65 central banks by the Bank for International Settlements this year showed that 60 per cent are now conducting central bank digital currency experiments or proof of concepts, while China is already one year into pilot testing of its Digital Currency Electronic Payment. Wang said given that SWIFT is also actively studying the digital currency operation and its own digital transformation, while China has conducted extensive public tests on digital yuan, it is “of great significance” for SWIFT to strengthen the cooperation with the PBOC, which will be a “strong alliance”. “It is not realistic to establish an independent cross-border messaging service network outside of SWIFT to avoid being strangled by it. For China, the priority still remains to strengthen the cooperation with SWIFT,” Wang said. More from South China Morning Post:China’s SWIFT joint venture a ‘defensive move’ in US financial war after Alaska talks underlined ongoing tensionsChina digital currency to ‘provide backup’ for Alipay, Tencent’s WeChat Pay if ‘something happens’ to internet giantsAmerican Rescue Plan: China’s exports set for US$60 billion boost from ‘rampant US demand’US-China tech war: state-led economy crucial to meet challenges of American sanctions, says prominent economistChina digital currency: central bank seeks to assure consumers of data, privacy protectionThis article China’s SWIFT joint venture ‘defensive move’ against US refuted by former bank executive first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.

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