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Uyghur community calls on Japanese companies to take action against forced labor

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A Uyghur association in Japan on Thursday urged major Japanese companies to investigate whether their operations in China were linked to factories allegedly benefiting from forced labor by the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, and if so, to suspend these operations.

In a joint statement, the Japan Uyghur Association and rights group Human Rights Now criticized 14 companies for being slow to act on possible human rights violations in their supply chains compared to their rivals global.

The call comes amid mounting international criticism of the repression of Uyghurs in Beijing, with the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada all imposing sanctions on China. Pressure is mounting for Japan to take more action.

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“It is important that members of the international community work in unity to end such atrocities involving the forced displacement and labor of ethnic minorities,” said Afumetto Retepu, vice-president of the association, at the meeting. ‘a press conference in Tokyo.

The 14 were named last year in a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, which identified more than 80 global brands “directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive workforce transfer programs ”.

The association said it has sent written requests to the companies on how they plan to resolve the issue. The companies include Fast Retailing Co., operator of the casual clothing brand Uniqlo, Sony Group Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

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All 14 companies, with the exception of Panasonic Corp., which gave no response, either denied transactions with the Chinese companies in question or said they could not confirm whether their business partners were involved in the forced labor, according to the Tokyo-based human rights association and organization. group.

They added that most companies said they would suspend operations if human rights violations were discovered in their supply chain.

Chinese authorities have denied such forced labor or human rights violations.

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Washington accused Beijing of committing “genocide” and other crimes against humanity against Uyghurs in an annual human rights report the State Department released in late March.

Amid allegations of forced labor, the United States and Britain have imposed import restrictions on cotton and other products originating in the Autonomous Region.

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Pressure has mounted on the Japanese government, which has been reluctant to respond by tackling the problem, apparently for fear of provoking China.

Japanese lawmakers this week launched a multi-stakeholder group to discuss the introduction of legislation to impose penalties for human rights violations. At present, Japan does not have any law allowing it to impose such sanctions.

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