Lawyers for Uyghur Rights Submits Evidence to Nus Ghani MP’s Uyghur Slavery Inquiry
The Uyghur human rights legal group Lawyers for Uyghur Rights (LfUR) (www.lawyersforuyghurrights.com ) is calling for the UK law to be tightened up to protect Uyghurs who are victims not only of slavery, but crimes against humanity and even genocide as a result of Beijing's policies in North West China.
Deploring the 2015 Modern Slavery Act as "toothless and ineffective", Michael Polak, London human rights barrister, and director of LfUR, is urging the British Government to bring its business legislation into line with the grim realities of modern slavery, particularly those emanating from Xinjiang. Too many companies that transgress the law escape the net of prosecution and censure, he claims, leaving casualties such as Uyghurs, herded into forced labour in China, unprotected and abused.
In a submission to the UK government's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, BEIS, led by MP Nus Ghani, Mr. Polak, urges a change in the law to prevent UK consumers from being unwittingly involved in the purchase of goods "created with the immense pain and suffering of the Uyghur and other Turkic people in China who are transported thousands of miles and forced to work in slavery."
He laments the lack of legal teeth when companies list themselves as slavery free without examining their supply chains, when companies discover slavery in their supply chains, but do nothing about it, or discover problems but fail to declare them in their annual statement.
The BEIS committee, which was set up in September to investigate the risks that UK based businesses face when engaging supply chains that originate in China, is determined to stamp out the involvement of UK businesses in the forced labour of Uyghurs, and ensure that no business is unaware of the risk their activities might support slavery.
Nus Ghani speaking on her Twitter feed to launch the inquiry, demanded that Britain stand up and be heard.
"We know that mass human rights atrocities are taking place in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs" she said. "We also need to look closer to home at reports that many products sold in the UK can be traced back to forced labour camps in Xinjiang."
She hoped the inquiry would "help to get a clearer picture of the extent of the problem regarding UK-Xinjiang supply chains and recommend what steps the government could take to ensure that businesses and consumers in the UK do not perpetuate forced labour and human rights violations."
She stressed the committee would be "relentless" in its questioning of companies that cosy up to the Chinese Communist Party, naming TikTok, Disney, Nike, and Adidas. "There must be no place to hide – Britons deserve transparency so they can make informed choices as consumers," she said. "Crucially, we will send a very clear message to individuals and businesses the world over: Great Britain will not be a safe space for those who facilitate, profit from, or associate themselves with the perpetrators of what could well be the worst genocide in many decades."
Having undertaken considerable groundwork this summer in its submission to the UK government concerning the Huawei 5G contract, LfUR was disappointed that human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese tech giant against the Uyghurs, were not in the end taken into account in the decision to ban the company from its network.
But during the process, the stone walling it received when challenging Britain's five major telecom companies operating in Britain that continue to use Huawei equipment and sell Huawei handsets, was enough to consolidate the impression that current modern slavery legislation is merely window dressing with little substance.
He urged the British government to provide a "clear and unambiguous" legal framework for companies and public bodies doing international business, requiring that they must not do business with companies or groups with slavery within their supply chain or who are involved in the commission of international crimes. Failure to abide by the law should incur criminal liability, he urged.