The UK Parliament’s Business (BEIS) Committee has established an Inquiry on Forced Labour in UK Value Chains, and on 5 November it’s set to hold a public hearing. It will hear evidence that shows how Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority Turkic ethnic groups are being coerced into forced labour by the Chinese state, in factories supplying global brands such as Nike, Apple and Zara.
We were due to hold our monthly protest at the Chinese embassy in London on 5 November, but we have had to cancel due to the new COVID-19 lockdown. Instead, we’re ask all supporters to write to the Business Committee and to their MP with our call for a new law that would force corporate giants to investigate their supply chains, open their books to the public, and cut ties to forced labour and human rights abuses.
We’ve written an example letter below but please feel free to add your personal thoughts. Please send it to your MP, BEIS Committee chair Darren Jones MP, inquiry lead Nusrat Ghani MP, and the Committee’s address. Copy in our campaign too!
You can tweet them too! This tool makes it easy to tweet the BEIS Committee (and add in your local MP’s twitter handle which you can find here):
To: [find your MP’s email here]; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: End Uyghur Forced Labour
Dear [your MP], Darren Jones MP, Nusrat Ghani MP & members of the Commons BEIS Committee,
On 5 November, the BEIS Committee Inquiry on Forced Labour in UK Value Chains is scheduled to have a public hearing. The Inquiry will hear extensive evidence showing that Uyghurs and members of other Muslim-majority Turkic ethnic groups from Xinjiang (the Chinese state’s name for the region known to its indigenous people as the Uyghur Region or East Turkestan) are coerced by the Chinese state into forced labour both within the region, and hundreds or thousands of miles from home. They undergo aggressive “re-education” programmes while working under duress, many in factories supplying products to global brands such as Nike, Apple and Zara.
I am writing to ask you to press for effective legislation against this abuse of human rights. I support the call for a strict new law to require comprehensive and transparent audits of big business supply chains. The goal is to incentivise suppliers to end the use of forced labour in order to retain their global clients. All large businesses trading in the UK should be subject to these requirements:
- Investigate. A new law must require these businesses to regularly map and audit all of their supply chains, right to source.
- Open the books. Commercial interests cannot justify any compromise on human rights transparency, and to give us confidence we need scrutiny not only by government but third party observers. So these audits must be openly published in full, to allow independent scrutiny by rights groups, trade unions, researchers, journalists and consumers.
- Cut ties to abuse. If any forced labour or other human rights abuses are identified, the company must halt them immediately. If the abuses are perpetrated by another business or state body that sells directly or indirectly to the company in question, and that entity does not immediately halt the abuses, the company must sever all supply chain links and business relations with that entity until the abuses stop. If reliable auditing is impossible, ties must also be cut until the situation improves.
- Pay reparations. When abuses are uncovered or rules are broken, fines and other penalties must be enforced – substantial enough to deter even the biggest corporate giants. As proposed by the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour (https://enduyghurforcedlabour.org/call-to-action/), proceeds should be donated to empower and help the victims. E.g. direct compensation to workers, or funding labour organisations and human rights organisations led by the affected groups.
These requirements must be consistently and equally imposed on all businesses, whether UK- or foreign-owned, and on supply chains originating in or passing through all countries, not just China. This is because the measures should incentivise real change, not just push businesses to switch to forced labour in other countries.
It is also important that the measures are seen to be a principled and consistent stand against human rights abuses no matter the perpetrator. If the Chinese state can respond that it is being held to a double standard (for instance, a standard not imposed on the UK’s allies), this could undermine the Uyghurs’ cause.
I urge you to put human rights before profit and press for these reforms. If consistently applied, they would benefit not only the Uyghur people, but victims of forced labour worldwide.