The World Uyghur Congress, together with the human rights organization Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), sued the British government, accusing it of negligence in investigating imports using Uyghur slave labor in Xinjiang, China.
They were heard by the High Court of London in a hearing that began on Tuesday, October 25, and continues through October 26.
The Xinjiang region produces 85% of China’s cotton and 20% of the world’s cotton production. However, the conditions under which this raw material is produced amount to crimes against humanity: extensive reports provide evidence that cotton is processed through slave labor and other means of abuse of rights.
This means that many countries and international fashion brands are at high risk of using this contaminated cotton.
Indifference to the genocide of the Uyghurs in China
Although this is the first time a foreign High Court has given rise to a lawsuit over the forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, it is not a new issue for anyone.
In this context, in January 2021, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab presented evidence of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims to the House of Commons:
“Violations include the extrajudicial detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other minorities in political re-education camps. Extensive and invasive surveillance targeting minorities. Systematic restrictions on Uighurs’ culture, education and, indeed, the practice of Islam, and widespread use of forced labor.”
However, the government has failed to take action on crimes against humanity or implement concrete measures to stop Uyghur forced labor products from entering British markets.
Lawyers representing the three defendant government agencies responded to the court that a clear link between the specific product and the alleged crime must be found by investigating whether the imported goods were manufactured in foreign prisons.
The lawyers ignored Raab’s presentation in Parliament and the reports from more than 300 NGOs and the UN that provided evidence confirming the allegations. They also called for the implementation of an international accountability mechanism.
In turn, a series of first-hand testimonies added further evidence from diplomats who visited Xinjiang, from victims who fled the region, satellite images revealed the detention camps and the presence of factories inside them.
In fact, the Chinese authorities own publicly available documents also paint a very similar picture. Statistical data reveals birth control, security spending, and recruitment in Xinjiang. They contain extensive references to coercive social measures disguised as poverty alleviation programs.
Additionally, Xinjian has the highest detention rate in the world: one in 25 citizens is detained on “terrorism” charges, and unlawful deprivation of liberty is cloaked under the name of “vocational re-education.”
The measures mentioned above are part of a strategic plan for massive control and surveillance of the population, for now local. However, the model seeks expansion and may achieve it if international measures are not taken in time.
U.S. one step ahead in condemning slave labor in Xinjiang
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), passed in December 2021 and effective from June 2022, has taken its toll. It was a major blow to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as it effectively assumes that all products from Xinjiang are tainted with the enslavement of Uyghurs detained in labor camps and challenges importers to prove otherwise.
In this regard, the mechanism applied by the law is for importers to document their supply chains in detail to prove that their components and raw materials were not manufactured with forced labor.
The Chinese government was furious about the law and appealed with its classic catastrophic argument of massive disruptions in cotton supply chains. For their part, textile companies said it would be difficult to prove that cotton from Xinjiang was not contaminated by slave labor. They will have to look to other horizons for the remaining 80% of cotton production, even if prices are not as competitive.
For its part, Britain only included recommendations for companies planning to make Chinese imports.
So far, the U.S. seems to be the only country taking concrete action to curb the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses against humanity.
China has yet to receive its due for atrocities committed in the name of communist ideology. It has systematically persecuted those it considers enemies of the regime using the tactics of state terrorism: torture, enforced disappearance, imprisonment, renunciation, and prohibition of cultural practices and religious beliefs. The Uyghur people are not alone: practitioners of the ancient spiritual discipline Falun Dafa and Christians have been victims of the same perverse mechanism since 1999.