United Nations (UN) human rights experts have raised serious concerns about the alleged detention and forced labour of Muslim Uyghurs in China. The experts have called for unhindered access to the country to conduct fact-finding missions and urged global and domestic companies to closely scrutinize their supply chains.

Several experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said they had received information that connected over 150 domestic Chinese and foreign domiciled companies to serious allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghur workers.

The Working Group on Business and Human Rights in a statement said they were deeply concerned by these allegations which, if proven, would constitute grave human rights abuses. Many businesses and factories implicated in the abusive practices are reportedly operating as part of supply chains of numerous well-known global brands, the experts added.

The UN experts have written to the Government of China as well as private businesses, both inside and outside of China that may be implicated in the alleged abuses. The UN Rights panel said they were ready to strengthen dialogue with the Government of China at the earliest opportunity. The panel said that an official visit to China including the Xinjiang region would be the ideal opportunity for such dialogue and to assess the situation based on free and unhindered access.

According to reports, Uyghur workers have reportedly been subjected to exploitative working and abusive living conditions. Working Group Chairperson Dante Pesce said Uyghur workers have allegedly been forcibly employed in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries, such as agribusiness, textile and garment, automotive and technological sectors .

Pesce has urged the China government to  immediately cease any such measures that are not fully compliant with international law, norms and standards relating to human rights, including the rights of minorities. They have also written to governments of 13 countries where the businesses are domiciled or headquartered.

Vice Chairperson of the Working Group Surya Deva said many businesses are also implicated in these allegations, either directly or through their supply chains. He said businesses must not turn a blind eye to this and must conduct meaningful human rights due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles.

Deva said the Chinese Government must create an environment conducive for all businesses operating in China to conduct human rights due diligence in line with international standards.

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