Chinese Government Ratifies Forced Labour Conventions; Continues Forced Labour

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April 22, 2022

The following is a statement released by the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region (the original statement can be found here)

Governments must continue to press the Government of China to end the systematic forced labour of Uyghur workers, notwithstanding the Government’s recent announcement of its intention to ratify two International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions prohibiting the exaction of forced labour, ILO Convention 29 and 105, said the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region (the Coalition). The Coalition is deeply concerned that the Government of China will use ratification to appear to be taking a firm stance on forced labour, while continuing to operate the largest mobilisation of forced labour in the world today – one based on religion and ethnicity. 

Indeed, the Government of China continues to deny the fact of widespread and systematic forced labour in the Uyghur Region and in factories across China employing forced labour transfers from the Uyghur Region. The fact of this state-sponsored forced labour has been documented by the United Nations, the ILO, academic experts, numerous non-governmental organisations, and survivors themselves. The ratification of these two conventions will be meaningless if the Government of China does not work to immediately cease the exaction of forced labour throughout the country. 

We also note the inextricable linkage between the risk of forced labour and the absence of freedom of association.  The Government of China also continues to deny freedom of association to workers throughout the country, as documented by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.  Further, the Government of China has yet to ratify Convention 87 which guarantees the right to freedom of association.  

While all countries should ratify these conventions, ratification should never serve as a smokescreen to the extreme violation of these two conventions in practice. Governments must continue to press the Government of China, just as before, to bring about the end of the systematic forced labour of Uyghur workers. We would particularly urge the European Union not to move forward with the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment until the Government of China demonstrates that it has in fact fully dismantled its system of state-sponsored forced labour. We also urge corporations to continue to extricate from their supply chains suppliers benefiting from forced Uyghur labour (whether in the Uyghur Region or elsewhere in China) and not use the ratification of these Conventions to defend continuing to source from a region rife with state-sponsored forced labour.