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EU lawmakers denounce Uyghur forced labour for apparel

By AFP
06 December 2023   |   4:35 pm
The forced labour of Uyghurs in China is continuing, including in Chinese companies selling apparel to big-name brands in Europe, a study commissioned by a group of EU lawmakers said Wednesday. "A substantial volume of apparel tainted by Uyghur forced labour is moving into the EU without restriction," said the study published by the left-leaning…

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives her annual State of the Union address during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on September 13, 2023. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP)

The forced labour of Uyghurs in China is continuing, including in Chinese companies selling apparel to big-name brands in Europe, a study commissioned by a group of EU lawmakers said Wednesday.

“A substantial volume of apparel tainted by Uyghur forced labour is moving into the EU without restriction,” said the study published by the left-leaning Socialists and Democrats grouping in the European Parliament.

It was carried out by the UK’s Sheffield Hallam University and two Uyghur rights group, the Uyghur Centre for Democracy and Human Rights and Uyghur Rights Monitor.

The report was released as EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel were on their way to Beijing for an EU-China summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Their meeting was mainly focused on trade issues, though an EU official said the issue of human rights in China would also be raised.

The report, relying on public sources and mapping of supply chains, said 39 clothing brands known in Europe were at “high risk of sourcing apparel made by Uyghurs compelled to participate in state-imposed labour transfers”.

Companies such as Zara, Next and Prada were using at least four Chinese manufacturers that relied on forced Uyghur labour, it said.

The number of at-risk European companies “indicates that EU policy is not protecting its consumers from buying products made with Uyghur forced labour,” the study said.

China has, for more than a decade, imposed draconian measures in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

The repression, which includes forced labour and “re-education camps”, was being presented as an “anti-terrorism” campaign after a series of bloody attacks Chinese authorities have attributed to certain Uyghurs.

The report was initiated by Socialist MEP Raphael Glucksmann, who was sanctioned by China in 2021 for raising awareness of repression of the Uyghurs in the European Parliament two years earlier.

Von der Leyen said Tuesday she would press Xi to have China lift its sanctions against MEPs.

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