In the face of recent, irrefutable evidence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s mass repression of Uyghur Muslims, an increasing number of states have chosen to formally condemn the CCP’s actions through domestic legal reform. Japan is a recent example of a country that has followed this trend. Headed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators and numerous state departments, the Japanese parliament is now in the process of establishing a legal framework that would impose countermeasures against those committing human rights abuses against China’s Uyghurs.
While currently ambiguous, it is likely that these countermeasures would come primarily in the form of economic sanctions. This would mirror the example the United States set through July’s Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, wherein Congress froze the assets of four individuals and an organization identified as involved with the repression of the Uyghurs.
The parliamentary activity in Japan was sparked by a report the Australian Global Policy Institute released in March, which identified eleven Japanese companies with subsidiaries traced to Chinese factories guilty of using forced Uyghur labor. Representatives of some of the implicated Japanese companies have denied any prior awareness of their connection to these China-based factories.
However, some of the Japanese companies identified in the report, including the Sharp Corporation, have expressed their commitment to abandoning their partnership with such factories altogether. One Sharp spokesperson stated, “Our company disapproves of any forms of human rights violations … and if such practices were discovered at any of our suppliers, we would take action to curb such abuses also through cutting ties with those suppliers.”
If Japan successfully passes the bill, it will join several countries that have introduced legislation to hold China accountable for repressing its Uyghur population. A group of parliamentarians in the United Kingdom has called on the British government to follow suit with the United States, raising concerns about selling products made by forced Uyghur labor in Chinese factories.
Moreover, an alliance of more than 16 countries has already urged the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to consider the mass detention of the Uyghurs as a case. The alliance holds that the overwhelming body of evidence against the CCP demands that those responsible for these egregious human rights violations should be brought to an international tribunal.
China’s mass detention of the Uyghur population should be categorized as one of the most horrific government-mandated genocides of the 21st century. The United Nations has reported that at least one million Muslims have been detained in camps in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang, where they have been tortured and abused.
In light of the increasing publicity surrounding the human rights abuses committed on part of the CCP, states around the world are receiving increasing pressure to penalize responsible officials at the domestic level. These pressures are amplified by reports, such as the one released by the Australian Global Policy Institute, which identify a state’s corporations as contributing to the problem.
Corporations do not want their consumers to perceive them as turning a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by their suppliers, states recognize the economic significance of hosting prosperous and strong companies, and both have a general desire to enforce human rights law. As seen in the case of Japan, this can incentivize corporations and states to act cooperatively to penalize perpetrators of human rights abuses.
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