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BRUSSELS – The European Union has condemned the current human rights situation in Xinjiang and adopted a resolution which could ultimately see it following the US’s lead of imposing sanctions against imports containing cotton from the Chinese province.

In a debate on the resolution, MEPs noted that most of Xinjiang cotton is currently processed in other parts of China into what is the world largest producer and exporter of yarn, textiles and apparel, “including for the numerous European and global apparel brands.” MEPs noted: “… textiles and garments made with Chinese cotton are at a very high risk of being tainted with forced and prison labour.”

MEPs said that given the magnitude and the systemic use of forced labour as a government policy in China, there should be a “presumption of use of forced labour by Chinese manufacturers that supply European and other global companies, in particular in the textile sector.”

They noted concern that any company sourcing from Chinese suppliers is “at serious risk of using forced labour and therefore of being complicit in human rights violation.” They also said that for those companies established and operating in Xinjiang, it has become practically impossible to be compliant with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Finally, they called on the European Commission to develop a supply chain business advisory guiding companies on the exposure to risk of using Uyghur forced labour and providing support in urgently identifying alternative sources of supply, “taking into account the relevant Xinjiang business advisory elaborated by US authorities.”

The resolution said: “MEPs are deeply concerned about the increasingly oppressive regime that many religious and ethnic minorities, in particular Uyghurs and Kazakhs, are facing in mainland China.” These, it said, “violate their human dignity, as well as their rights to freedom of cultural expression and religious belief, to freedom of speech and expression, and to peaceful assembly and association.”

The resolution added: “They also deeply deplore the continued persecution and the serious and systematic human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity, while urging the Chinese government to put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for criminal offences of members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities. MEPs call on the Chinese government to end the mass incarceration of ethnic minorities in camps and detention centres and demand the immediate and unconditional release of those detained.”

The text was approved by 604 votes in favour, 20 against and 57 abstentions.

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