A new bill to ban imports from the Uyghur Region on grounds of forced labor has received the support of representatives of Australia’s Uyghur community.
The bill, tabled by independent senator Rex Patrick, would amend the country’s Customs Act to ban the importation of all goods from the Uyghur Region, as well as other goods from China produced using forced labor.
Australia has come under fire from the Uyghur community and its allies for its slow response to the systematic forced labor taking place in the Uyghur Region.
While Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. have all imposed sanctions in recent months, Australia has yet to take legislative action, which critics say reflects a reluctance to upset trade relations.
But according to Alim Osman, president of the Uyghur Association of Victoria, the decision to sanction China is not only a moral imperative but an economic one, as it would increase the competitiveness of Australia’s businesses.
For Osman and other Uyghurs across Australia, there is no excuse for Australia’s lack of action to prevent the oppression and modern slavery taking place in the Uyghur Region.
ABC News reports:
East Turkistan Australian Association president Nurmuhammad Majid said Uyghurs at labour camps were being forced to work more than 18 hours a day.
Some Australian Uyghurs, including himself, had dozens of family members in the labour camps, he said.
“The Australian Uyghur community has credible testimonies to state that China has used force labour in the region, and this is also supported by the investigations by the Western reporters,” he said.
“We strongly demand the Australian government should [pass] this bill to specifically target the supply chains of the Chinese cotton production lines, stop the human rights violations and other atrocities committed by the Chinese government.”
Patrick’s bill is being considered alongside a broader effort to improve the 2018 Modern Slavery Act, which has been criticized by activists and campaigners as ineffective.
Under the Act, Australia’s biggest companies—smaller firms are excluded—are required to submit annual statements outlining the steps they are taking to address modern slavery in their supply chains, but there are no fines for failing to do so.
The proposed ban on Uyghur Region goods would significantly strengthen Australia’s resolve against forced labor, but it has received pushback from border officials who question the feasibility of identifying regional origins of imported goods.
However, the Australian government has also failed to follow its allies in Europe and North America in issuing written advisories to corporate sectors on the risk of forced labor.
Uyghur Australians, many of whom view a coordinated international response as the only viable means of tackling China’s behavior, are urging their country to spring into action.
Freedom United has gathered over 75,000 signatures—including many from Australia—calling on the Chinese government to end its oppressive system of forced labor in the Uyghur Region.
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