Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region Statement for 56th Session of the Human Rights Council – China UPR Adoption

July 2, 2024

It is of deep concern to the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region that the Government of China has rejected all recommendations received from other governments during its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on its continued use of systematic and widespread forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region) and other regions of China targeting the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples on the basis of their religion and ethnicity.[1]

We again call on the Government of China to swiftly end forced labour programmes and provide victims with adequate and effective remedies and reparation, including for wider human rights violations such as mass surveillance, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, political ‘re-education’, and forced sterilisations. The Government’s rejection of UPR recommendations highlights the need for all other governments to address this persecution with a targeted policy response in line with international human rights commitments.

As evidenced by independent research including UN reports, state-imposed forced labour programmes in China have been implemented through a number of schemes, including forced labour of internment camp detainees, prison labour, and state-sponsored labour transfers. Resistance to participation in these programmes is seen as a sign of extremism and may be punishable with imprisonment.

It is dangerous to view the forced labour systems as separate from the broader set of human rights violations occurring in the Uyghur Region. Forced labour is central to, and enabling of, the Chinese government’s control and attempted assimilation of the Uyghur and Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples to eradicate their religious and cultural identity.

As such, we stress that these programmes of forced labour must be understood as constituting crimes against humanity, including enslavement “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population”, as laid out in Article 7.1 of the Rome Statute. Both the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery found in 2022 that crimes against humanity may be taking place in the Uyghur Region, in relation to arbitrary and discriminatory detention and forced labour respectively.

These state-imposed forced labour systems are also a violation of ILO Convention 105, which prohibits ratifying countries – including the People’s Republic of China – from using any forced labour as a means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination, among other purposes.

It is, therefore, imperative for UN member states and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to respond accordingly and sustain leadership on this issue. This should include acting on recommendations made by the landmark 2022 OHCHR assessment report, holding the Government of China to account, and monitoring and evaluating the implementation of recommendations. An impartial and independent UN mechanism should be urgently established to investigate the human rights situation in China.


[1] 22.7 (Canada); 22.100 (United States of America); 22.110 (Montenegro); 22.120 (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); 22.205 (Germany); 22.406 (Australia).

Photo by Mmoka . on Unsplash