The European Parliament has adopted a resolution which strongly condemns China over allegations of forced labor by minority groups.
“Parliament strongly condemns the Chinese government-led system of forced labour – in particular the exploitation of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups – in factories within and outside internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the EU body said in a statement Friday.
The statement went on to denounce “the continued transfer of forced labourers to other Chinese administrative divisions, and the fact that well-known European brands and companies have been benefiting from forced Chinese labour.”
China has consistently denied allegations of forced labor and other claims of human rights abuses in the area, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that speak a language closely related to Turkish and have their own distinct culture.
Earlier this month, the US blocked cotton imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns. US President-Elect Joe Biden has also condemned the treatment of minorities in the region.
The US State Department estimates that more than one million Uyghurs, as well as members from other Muslim minority groups, have been detained in a sprawling network of internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.” Former detainees have told CNN they experienced political indoctrination and abuse inside the camps, such as food and sleep deprivation and forced injections.
Initially, Beijing flatly denied the existence of the camps. But it later claimed the facilities are voluntary “vocational training centers” where people learn job skills, Chinese language and laws. The government now insists that the camps are necessary for preventing religious extremism and terrorism.
On Thursday, EU parliament members expressed their concerns about what they described as the “increasingly oppressive regime” in Beijing. The body’s statement urges China to “put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for criminal offenses of members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities.”
“A vote that will be heard around Europe, and in Beijing, too,” EU parliament member Reinhard Bütikofer tweeted Thursday.