The G7 has issued a cautious rebuke of the Chinese government’s actions in the Uyghur Region in a final communiqué closing its three-day summit in England last week.
In the statement, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.—the world’s 7 wealthiest liberal democracies—called on China to respect human rights in the Uyghur Region, although without specifically mentioning forced labor.
The inclusion of the Uyghur Region in the statement, most strongly advocated for by U.S. President Joe Biden, came despite some hesitancy from other members of the G7.
While Canada and France backed Biden’s exhortation, there was resistance from Germany, Italy, and the E.U., whose leaders feared jeopardizing potential cooperation with China on issues such as climate change.
Despite the relatively minimal allusion to the atrocities taking place in the Uyghur Region, Biden said he was “satisfied” with the language included in the statement.
The relevant section of the statement reads as follows:
We recognise the particular responsibility of the largest countries and economies in upholding the rules-based international system and international law. We commit to play our role in this, working with all partners and as members of the G20, UN and wider international community, and encourage others to do the same. We will do this based on our shared agenda and democratic values […] including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
The response from the Chinese government has been fierce, with the country’s embassy in the U.K. denouncing what it called “baseless accusations” and “political manipulation.”
Over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people have been detained in the Uyghur Region since 2017 as part of a vast system of detention and forced labor, but the Chinese government continues to deny any wrongdoing.
The international movement against Uyghur forced labor has gathered pace over the past year, and the G7’s statement marks a further step toward action by world leaders.
Freedom United sits on the steering committee of Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, which consolidates the efforts of over 200 civil society organizations working against the ongoing atrocities.
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