Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour Urges G20 Members to Enact Import Bans

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October 18, 2021

Ahead of the G20 Heads of State and Government Summit on October 30th and 31st in Rome, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region calls on world leaders to ban the import of products tainted with Uyghur forced labour, including cotton and yarn, polysilicon (used to produce solar panels), and electronics. As G20 leaders meet to discuss taking care of people and our planet, while ensuring a strong, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery, the Coalition is sounding the alarm that ending state-sponsored forced labour must be central to policies to advance the global transition to clean energy and promote climate justice.

Recent research indicates 95 percent of solar panels rely on one primary material – solar-grade polysilicon – and 45 percent of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon supply is produced in the Uyghur Region, where the widespread use of Uyghur forced labour by Chinese authorities is well-documented. 

“The G7 made a strong commitment to removing forced labour from supply chains,” said Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch. “But until Chinese authorities are willing to allow real human rights due diligence on the ground, states have to underpin their strong rhetoric with clear action, including bans on products that can’t be shown to have been made with full respect for human rights.”

“There is an erroneous notion that governments must choose between building a clean energy future or protecting human rights and worker rights,” said Cathy Feingold, International Director at AFL-CIO, which recently issued a statement on building clean energy jobs. “Governments can and must do both.”

There is increasing momentum around legislation prohibiting forced labour products. Most recently, the Coalition applauded the European Commission’s proposed ban on products made with forced labour. The EU must now proceed with a strong proposal which ensures Uyghur forced labour goods are not sold on EU store shelves. Further, the Coalition urges all G20 governments to introduce controls on goods produced or transported with forced labour through customs enforcement measures. These measures must be robustly and transparently enforced, for which the Coalition offers guidelines in their Call to Action.

“With each passing day, Uyghurs continue to suffer devastation and hardship,” said Omer Kanat, Executive Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “Governments must end corporate profits from Uyghur forced labour in global supply chains.”

The Coalition is also calling on countries to follow through on G7 commitments on forced labour made in the Cornwall Communiqué. G7 Trade Ministers were tasked to “identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains.” Since the meeting in June, however, world leaders have yet to detail how they will achieve these goals. 

About the Coalition

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan.

The coalition is calling on leading companies to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labour of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government.

We call on governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives, companies, and other stakeholders to join us in challenging this abusive system and together build the economic and political pressure on the Chinese government to end forced labour in the Uyghur Region.