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Government announces new measures over Xinjiang forced labour concerns

Tom Shearsmith
12 January 2021

The Foreign Secretary has today announced a package of measures to help ensure that UK companies that buy cotton, electronics and other goods are not complicit in, nor profiting from, the human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Evidence of human rights violations including extra-judicial detention and forced labour has been growing, including proof from the Chinese authorities’ documents.

The UK Government has repeatedly called on China to end these practices, and uphold its laws and international obligations. The new measures being introduced are designed to send a clear signal to China that these violations are unacceptable.

The UK Government is also announcing a review into which UK products can be exported to Xinjiang and the introduction of financial penalties for businesses that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act.

Specifically, the measures include:

  • A review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang to ensure the Government is doing all it can to prevent the exports of goods that may contribute to human rights abuses in the region.
  • The introduction of financial penalties for organisations who fail to meet their obligations to publish modern slavery statements, under the Modern Slavery Act.
  • Robust guidance to UK business setting out the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang.
  • The Government will provide guidance and support for all UK public bodies to use procurement rules to exclude suppliers where there is evidence of human rights violations in supply chains.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The evidence of the scale and severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims is now far reaching. Today we are announcing a range of new measures to send a clear message that these violations of human rights are unacceptable, and to safeguard UK businesses and public bodies from any involvement or linkage with them.

"This package will help make sure that no British organisations, Government or private sector, deliberately or inadvertently, profit from or contribute to the human rights violations against the Uyghurs or other minorities in Xinjiang."

In October 2020, The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee wrote to a range of businesses in sectors including fashion to seek answers in relation to the Committee’s inquiry of exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in China.

The BEIS Committee wrote to companies including: Adidas, Amazon, Boohoo, Gap, H&M Group, Marks and Spencer, Nike, Puma, Stella McCartney, The North Face, The Walt Disney Company, Victoria’s Secret and Zara.

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