By Claudia Cheung
Canadian lawmakers approved a motion recently, recognizing China’s oppressive treatment of the ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims as “genocide”. Earlier in January, Canada released new measures on the human rights situation in Xinjiang.
[Trigger Warning: Some Images show people blindfolded and shackled in mass detention.]
VIBE 105 interviewed Mehmet Tohti - Uyghur-Canadian activist and Executive Director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, and Farida Deif - Director at Human Rights Watch (Canada), about the new measures.
The Government released seven new measures on addressing the Uyghur's human rights crisis and ensuring Canadian companies are not complicit in those abuses. The new measures includes the prohibition of products produced entirely or partly by forced labour.
Canadian companies wanting to source from Uyghur labour, engage in their market or establish their business in Uyghur would need to sign the Integrity Declaration on Doing Business with Xinjiang Entities to declare that they are not knowingly sourcing from forced labour, and acknowledge the human right situation in the region.
Also offered is business advisory on Uyghur-related entities and better advice to Canadian businesses. There will also be export controls and increasing awareness for ‘responsible business conduct’ linked to Uyghur; and a study on forced labour and supply chain risks.
Tohti believes the new measure is the first step to the right direction, but it is not enough. "There are no concrete measures imposed on the Canadian companies and others who are dealing with the products that are associated with forced labour. Most importantly, there is no controlling mechanism about those products and the criteria to determine which products are made by forced labour."
© BBC NEWS | YouTube
Deif said that Canadian companies should be transparent about their businesses in Uyghur. Companies should enlist third-party audits to check and assess their supply chains; whether there is any use of forced labour and usage of technology that would collect or store information without people's consent.
However, Deif thinks that using a third-party audit is going to be difficult.
"China is notoriously reluctant to allow independent investigators to enter the country to check those types of issues.”
According to Tohti, almost 90% of Chinese cotton production comes from the Uyghur region, in addition to the 25% of the global ketchup supply. According to End Uyghur Forced Labour, one in five cotton garments in the global apparel market is made by forced labour.
"These are massive numbers for global supply. How can people identify them? Unless those companies can prove their cotton products are not associated with forced labour, [until] then all products should be banned," added Tohti.
It is the Canadian government's job to identify forced labour products and prevent Canadians from unknowingly spending money to subsidize the Chinese forced labour policy, and purchasing products from the area.
"We are urging the Canadian government to get serious about this [Uyghur Muslim genocide] because it's not only about the forced labour issue; it's a morality issue."
- Mehmet Tohti, Executive Director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project.
Deif feels it will be difficult for consumers to know which products are from forced labour or even know what products are manufactured in Uyghur. For this reason, it should not be a burden on consumers to identify forced labour products, but it is a responsibility of the Government and businesses to ensure an ethical supply chain for Canadians.
© ABC News (Australia) | YouTube
What actions would you take to protest against the Uyghur genocide in China?
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