China, North Korea, and Myanmar have been named state sponsors of the trafficking of persons for the second consecutive year by the US State Department on Thursday.
The US agency’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report cited the use of forced labour in the two East Asian countries and the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the Southeast Asian nation.
In remarks given at the launch of the TIP report on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out China’s use of detained ethnic Uyghurs as forced labourers to produce various Chinese-made goods.
The Chinese government has detained some 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in its extensive network of as many as 1,200 state-run internment camps, though it says the facilities are vocational training centres set up to combat religious extremism and terrorism.
“Many detainees are subject to physical violence, sexual abuse, and torture to induce them to work, producing apparel, electronics, solar equipment, agricultural products,” Blinken said.
“And while the practices are the most egregious in Xinjiang, this year’s report notes that China has subjected its citizens to coercive labour practices in other parts of the country as well.”
Blinken noted that the US government has taken measures to stop Chinese goods made with forced labour from entering the US, citing the 2020 issuance of the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory to alert American companies.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have issued several Withhold Release Orders to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the United States.
Additionally, the US and several other countries have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for various abuses against Uyghurs, as well as on Chinese government agencies and companies suspected of using Uyghur forced labour to make products such as cotton, wigs, and polysilicon for solar panels.
US lawmakers are also working on a Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act, which aims to address the systematic use of Uyghur forced labour and ensure that US companies are not complicit.
There was no immediate response by the Chinese government to Blinken’s comments or about the TIP Report, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 01.
China, North Korea, and Myanmar were among 11 governments worldwide cited in the report as having a documented “policy or pattern” of human trafficking, trafficking in government-funded programs, forced labour in government-affiliated medical services or other sectors, sexual slavery in government camps, or the recruitment of child soldiers