British companies are to face fines unless they meet new government requirements showing that their supply chains are free from forced labor, British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab said on Tuesday as he announced measures aimed at tackling human rights abuses against Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
Raab said that the British government has issued guidance to local companies with links to the Xinjiang region on how to carry out due diligence.
The government intends to exclude suppliers when there is evidence of rights violations in their supply chains and also to review export controls to prevent the shipping of any goods that could contribute to such violations in Xinjiang.
Photo: AFP / PRU
“Our aim, put simply, is that no company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang can do business in the UK, and that no UK business is involved in their supply chains,” Raab told lawmakers.
Raab said that mounting evidence, including first-hand testimony and nonprofit group reports, supports claims of unlawful mass detention in internment camps, widespread forced labor and forced sterilization of women on an “industrial scale.”
The evidence “paints a harrowing picture” and showed the practice of “barbarism we had hoped lost to another era,” Raab said.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said that China would “take all necessary measures to defend national interests and dignity, and firmly safeguard its sovereign, security and development interests.”
“Individual countries, including the UK, have funded, concocted and deliberately spread lies and rumors to smear and discredit China on the pretext of so-called human rights issues,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
China has denied mass internments of Uighurs, saying that it merely operated voluntary centers for deradicalization and job training, and that all participants have since “graduated.”
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