The Uyghur Human Rights Project, Uyghur American Association, and World Uyghur Congress have sent a letter to the International Labour Organization (ILO), urging Director General Guy Ryder, to speak out forcefully against widespread Uyghur forced labor. The Uyghur groups are asking the ILO Governing Body to pass a resolution condemning China’s violation of its convention obligations.
“Uyghurs are asking why the ILO remains completely silent on the worst state-organized forced labor abuses in the world today,” said Uyghur Human Rights Project Executive Director Omer Kanat. “It is the ILO’s responsibility to address these crimes and hold the Chinese government accountable.”
World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa added, “The forced labour of the Uyghur people can no longer go unnoticed, especially by the international body such that was founded to promote and protect workers’ rights globally. The Uyghur community expects to see a strong statement from the ILO condemning China’s abuses of Uyghur workers’ rights.”
The letter notes that the Chinese government has ratified ILO Convention 111, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race and religion, as well as Convention 122, which requires states to “pursue, as a major goal, an active policy designed to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment.”
The ILO Committee of Experts has issued guidance confirming that under Convention 122, the prevention and prohibition of compulsory labour is a “condition sine qua non of freedom of choice of employment.”
The Government of China is also bound to respect, promote and realize the prohibition of forced or compulsory labour pursuant to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, despite the fact that it has not ratified the Forced Labour Convention.
As the global body charged with promoting the rights of working people worldwide, the ILO must live up to its obligation to promote internationally recognized human and labor rights, including taking a stand against forced labor—wherever it occurs.
Likewise, the ILO must not remain silent in the face of this pattern of egregious human and labour rights violations in the Uyghur Region today.