China forces thousands of Tibetans into labour camps
More than half a million people in Tibet have been coerced by Chinese authorities into a labour program so far this year, moving rural labourers into ‘military-style’ camps to retrain them to work in factories in the textile and construction industries. A Reuters-corroborated report, by the Jamestown Foundation also found that Chinese authorities have set quotas for the mass transfer of these re-trained workers to other parts of Tibet and China.
Tibet is a predominantly Buddhist, autonomous region of China and the situation there has been compared to the well reported Uighur ‘re-education’ camps in the Xingjiang region of China. The independent Tibet and Xingjiang researcher who drafted the findings, Adrian Zenz, said “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labor.” Zenz makes particular reference to similarities with Xinjiang, stressing that the focus is on “military-style training management to produce discipline and obedience” and the need to change “thinking and identity” and “weaken the perceived negative influence of religion”. The policy documents examined show that in addition to vocational skills training, something called “gratitude education” is included to boost loyalty to the Party.
According to the Chinese government, the program is designed to develop “work discipline, Chinese language and work ethics” and change “can’t do, don’t want to do and don’t dare to do” attitudes towards work. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement to Reuters, saying that reports of ‘forced labor’ are lies and all workers are involved in the program voluntarily and are properly compensated.
Two weeks ago, a global coalition of 321 civil society groups from 6 countries urged the UN to tackle China’s human rights violations through an independent international mechanism. John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch said the global coalition, which includes 50 UN experts, organisations and governments, “are all demanding an end to China’s impunity at the UN Human Rights Council”.
Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly this week, as Trump and Xi face off, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres warned the international community about the perils of a “great fracture” between the two largest economies of the US and China, saying “we must to everything to avoid a new Cold War”.
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