Trudeau warns Canadian companies in China to avoid using forced labor

Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a Vocational Skills Teaching Center in Huocheng County, China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, September 3, 2018.THOMAS PETER/Reuters

Justin Trudeau said government officials would warn Canadian companies doing business in China’s Xinjiang region not to use forced labor or engage in other human rights abuses in a place where the United States United said on Tuesday that a genocide was underway.

Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday the outreach will include three publicly traded Canadian resource companies that have active projects and plans in Xinjiang, where authorities have locked many of China’s predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority into indoctrination. politics and so-called “vocational training”. fields.

The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that renewable energy giant Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ-Q) and a pair of junior mining companies, Dynasty Gold Corp. (DYG-X) and GobiMin Inc. (GMN-X), continue to operate in the northwest region.

“We will continue to work very, very closely and follow the companies you have named, and all the companies that have investments in this area, to ensure that they respect Canadian values ​​and Canadian law,” said Mr. Trudeau when questioned at a press conference. conference on the three firms.

In Washington, meanwhile, in one of the Trump administration’s latest moves, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Chinese government was committing genocide and crimes against humanity by using death camps. internment and forced sterilizations.

“I believe that this genocide is ongoing and that we are witnessing a systematic attempt to destroy the Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a statement.

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed with the Trump administration’s assessment. “That would be my judgement, too,” he said.

He said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there was “no doubt” that China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any country and added that there was a very solid basis for building a bipartisan policy to stand up to Beijing. .

In his statement, Mr. Pompeo called on “all appropriate multilateral and competent legal bodies to join the United States in our efforts to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities.”

In response to the US decision, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau did not say that Canada would follow the US lead and make the same statement.

“We will review the findings released today by the U.S. State Department on the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” Garneau said in a statement Tuesday. “It is one more step towards what must be a multilateral effort to resolve the problem.”

Mr. Garneau urged China to grant “unimpeded access” to Xinjiang for the United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Canada will continue to work with its partners and push for an investigation by an independent international body so that impartial experts can observe and report on the situation firsthand,” he added.

Trudeau said he was “increasingly concerned” about reports of China’s use of forced labor and personally raised the issue in conversations with Chinese leaders and at multilateral conferences. .

He noted that Canada took new steps last week to discourage any companies from profiting from forced labor in Xinjiang, asking those operating in the region to review their employment practices and threatening to deny diplomatic assistance and to export defaulter loans. It is illegal in Canada to import products made with forced labour.

However, trade lawyers and human rights advocates say Canada’s actions are more style than substance, with no substantial penalties for non-compliance.

The U.S. Commerce Department, by comparison, has released the names of Chinese companies or entities that Washington deems “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed as part of the crackdown campaign, detentions arbitrary acts, forced labor and state-of-the-art surveillance” in China. against minority groups in Xinjiang.

Last fall, lawmakers on a parliamentary committee said China had committed genocide against its Uyghur minority and urged the Canadian government to recognize it as such. He also called for sanctions against Chinese officials.

The statement by the House of Commons Sub-Committee on International Human Rights came shortly after China’s envoy to Canada warned parliamentarians against portraying the mass detention and abuse of Uyghurs as a genocide.

The committee called Chinese detention centers concentration camps and urged the Canadian government to work with allies to help international monitors gain access to the camps.

Canadian companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the region over the past two decades, according to an analysis of foreign governments obtained by The Globe. The Globe does not identify the source of the analysis as they were not authorized to make the document public. Such investments in energy and mining projects have made Canada one of the top five foreign investors in Xinjiang, according to the document, which traces 20 years of spending.

The Chinese government has said it is fighting religious extremism in Xinjiang by guiding rebellious souls towards modern thought.

Human rights groups say the treatment of people in the area has been so egregious that Western companies have an obligation to carefully scrutinize their operations there. “They shouldn’t be there right now,” said Alex Gladstein, director of strategy at the Human Rights Foundation, adding that China was accused of “imprisoning millions of Uyghurs.”

Canadian Solar operates a 30 megawatt solar farm near Tumxuk, a small town on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, 175 kilometers from the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Tumxuk is home to a growing textile industry and a vocational training center located about five kilometers from the solar park. According to a local government document, the center’s curriculum includes vocational training as well as 126 hours a year of “moral and practical” lessons in subjects such as history and religious politics.

Vancouver-based Dynasty Gold lists its Qi2 gold mine in Hatu, a northwestern mining district, as one of its anchor assets. The company owns 70% of the property, with an additional 30% held by a local state-owned company, Xinjiang Non-Ferrous Metals Group.

The Hatu project is located less than an hour’s drive from Karamay, where the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has identified six detention centers – two of which have been used as ‘re-education’ centers for political indoctrination and vocational training . Dynasty did not respond to a detailed request for comment.

GobiMin is a Canadian penny stock company with offices in Montreal and Hong Kong. It has a 70% stake in a Xinjiang gold mine project, Sawayaerdun, which is located 200 kilometers north of Kashgar, one of China’s most controlled cities. GobiMin has struggled with its investment in Xinjiang but is trying to prove the viability of the project.

The three companies were not immediately available for comment.

With reporting by David Green in London, Reuters and Associated Press

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