There is mounting evidence that the Uyghur population and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have been the subject of systematic human rights violations, including forced labour, sanctioned by the Government of the People’s Republic of China. There is also compelling evidence that many major companies in the fashion, retail, media and technology sectors with large footprints in the UK are complicit in the forced labour of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
This report examines the extent to which the forced labour of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang is contributing to UK value chains. It also makes a series of recommendations to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for ensuring that UK businesses do not profit from human rights abuses.
We received evidence from several companies laying out the steps they have taken to deliver transparency in their supply chains and to ensure they are not profiting from human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other parts of the world. However, we remain deeply concerned that companies selling to millions of British customers cannot guarantee that their supply chains are free from forced labour, and that modern slavery legislation and BEIS Department policy are not fit for purpose in tackling this serious situation.
Given the Government’s admission that the situation facing the Uyghur people in Xinjiang is harrowing and that international supply chains are likely to be complicit in the perpetuation of forced labour in the region, we are disappointed by the lack of meaningful action that has been taken in relation to these crimes.
This report lays out a series of recommendations to the BEIS Department designed to strengthen anti-modern slavery requirements for businesses and to develop new policies for compelling companies to ensure that forced labour play no part in their supply chains. We recommend that a Director-led Working Group be established by the Department to produce a policy framework for creating a whitelist and blacklist of companies which do and do not meet their obligations to uphold human rights throughout their supply chains.
We also recommend that the Government accelerates proposals to amend and strengthen the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to enhance the transparency and accessibility of modern slavery statements and to develop options for civil penalties in the event of non-compliance. Furthermore, the BEIS Department should commit to full transparency in terms of official development assistance channelled to China and, in collaboration with other departments, fully assess the options for introducing targeted sanctions against Chinese and international businesses implicated in human rights abuses and the exploitation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.