Home Christian News ERLC Applauds Finding of Forced Labor by China

ERLC Applauds Finding of Forced Labor by China

ERLC China
Uyghurs detainees in a camp in Lop County, Xinjiang, April 2017. Wikipedia Creative Commons

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission welcomed a new report to the United Nations that determined China has been practicing forced labor among ethnic minorities.

Tomoya Obokata, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, reported it is “reasonable to conclude” forced labor by Uyghurs, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities has taken place in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and some of the coercion “may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.”

Obokata’s findings appeared to affirm the conclusions of two United States presidential administrations and the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Trump administration announced its decision that China is guilty of genocide against the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang on its last full day in January 2021, and the Biden administration affirmed that determination weeks later. In June 2021, messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville passed a resolution that made the convention the first Christian denomination to denounce China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as genocide.

News reports have indicated the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has carried out a campaign primarily against the Uyghurs, predominantly Muslims in western China, that has included not only forced labor but widespread detention in “re-education” camps and a coercive population control program of abortion and sterilization.

ERLC Acting President Brent Leatherwood described Obokata’s findings regarding forced labor in Xinjiang as “a significant development that demands the world’s attention.”

“It should erase any doubt that the Chinese government is systematically mistreating and enslaving the Uyghur people,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press in written comments. “The independent nature of the report only further confirms that SBC messengers were absolutely right to label these atrocities a genocide with passage of the 2021 resolution.”

Adrian Zenz, an expert on China, called Obokata’s conclusion an “extremely significant and strong assessment” in a tweet. Zenz is senior fellow and director in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Obokata’s findings on forced labor in China came in the context of a 20-page report about slavery that affects “ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities” globally. The document – prepared for the U.N. Human Rights Council’s next session, which begins Sept. 12 – is dated July 19, but Obokata announced its availability Aug. 16 on Twitter.

The conclusions on China’s practices were based on “an independent assessment” of a variety of sources and found the forced labor occurred in such sectors as agriculture and manufacturing, Obokata wrote.

He cited two separate labor systems mandated by the Chinese government – “(a) the vocational skills education and training centre system, under which minorities are detained and subjected to work placements; and (b) the poverty alleviation through labour transfer system, where surplus rural labourers are transferred into secondary or tertiary sector work.” Similar programs also exist in the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to the report.

While the programs may establish employment opportunities and increased income, an argument made by China’s government, evidence points to the “involuntary nature of work” by minorities in “many cases,” Obokata reported. The authority asserted over workers includes “excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restrictions of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment,” he wrote.