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25 September 2020


Independent Senator Rex Patrick today called on the Australian Government to ban the importation of products from Xinjiang and other parts of China that are produced in whole or part by forced labour.

“The Australian Parliament has expressed strong support for international efforts to suppress modern slavery,” Senator Patrick said. “Consistent with that the Australian Government needs to take a strong stand against the well documented abuse of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people in Xinjiang.”

“It would be a human rights disgrace if Australia, under our free trade agreement with China, turned a blind eye to profiteering from what amounts to slave labour.”

“More than one million people have been rounded up and put in massive internment camps across Xinjiang. Mass surveillance, restrictions on free movement, and widespread persecution of the Uyghur people have been confirmed beyond doubt.”  

The United States Government and the United States House of Representatives both acted this week in relation to the exploitation of detained Uyghur people.

The US Government ordered the banning of imports of cotton, clothing and computer components from four companies and a manufacturing facility in north western China because of their suspected reliance on forced labour.

The US House of Representatives yesterday voted by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in favour of the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Bill to ban imports from China's Xinjiang region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has launched a data project mapping Xinjiang’s detention system with 380 sites of suspected re-education camps, detention centres and prisons that have been built or expanded since 2017.

In a previous research report published in March 2020 ASPI identified 83 Chinese and foreign companies, including many well-known international brands, benefiting directly or indirectly from the use of Uyghur detainees transferred to locations outside Xinjiang.

ASPI estimated that at least 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to Chinese factories in a range of supply chains including electronics, textiles, and automotives. The report identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces that are using Uyghur labour transferred from Xinjiang.

“The systematic oppression of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Government is undeniable,” Senator Patrick said. “The exploitation of detained Uyghurs as a captive labour force is clear. If Australia is to be true to the democratic values we hold, we need leave the Chinese Government in no doubt that its conduct is unconscionable and unacceptable.”

“The Australian Government should provide the Australian Parliament with a comprehensive report setting out its knowledge of the extent of forced labour practices in China, and introduce appropriate legislation to ban the importation of products from Xinjiang or otherwise produced using forced labour elsewhere in China.”

“If the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade do not move quickly, I will introduce a Private Senators’ Bill to force a detailed examination of this issue and a response from the Government.”