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China ‘enslaves’ minorities in Xinjiang

Minorities have been drafted into forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region, a report by an independent UN expert has concluded, in what it said could amount to “enslavement as a crime against humanity”.

Beijing has been accused of detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, as well as carrying out forced sterilisation of women and coerced labour.

The United States and lawmakers in other western countries have gone as far as accusing China of committing “genocide” against the minority groups, allegations that Beijing denies.

The report released on Tuesday by UN special rapporteur on modern slavery Tomoya Obokata pointed to two “distinct state-mandated systems” in China in which forced labour has occurred, citing think-tank and NGO reports, as well as victims.

One is a vocational skills education and training centre system in which minorities are detained and subject to work placements, while another involves labour transfer, in which rural workers are moved into “secondary or tertiary work”.

“While these programmes may create employment opportunities for minorities… the special rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labour pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases,” the report said.

The nature and extent of powers exercised over the workers, including excessive surveillance and abusive living and working conditions, could “amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity”, it said.