President Tsai urges China to respect human rights in Xinjiang

03/27/2021 10:46 PM
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Cotton farm workers in Xinjiang. File photo by China News Service.
Cotton farm workers in Xinjiang. File photo by China News Service.

Taipei, March 27 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has urged Beijing to respect human rights as claims the Uighur minority in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region are subjected to forced labor attracted international attention.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Tsai said the Chinese government's manipulation of nationalism and patriotism to pressure business enterprises is not helpful to the country's goal to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the world.

"Human rights are universal values. We call upon authorities in Beijing to directly address Uyghur human rights concerns," she said, adding that the only way for Beijing to address international concerns and criticisms is by stopping such oppression.

Tsai was responding to a recent controversy whereby following criticism from Western countries, Chinese citizens have called for boycotts of western brands, such as fashion retailer H&M and sportswear giants Nike and Adidas.

In addition, the public outrage in China has resulted in a number of showbiz celebrities, including Taiwanese, cutting ties with these brands and online shopping platform to drop their products.

In part the dispute can be traced back to last year when H&M issued a statement expressing concerns over allegations that members of the Uyghur minority group were being used as forced labor in Xinjiang and stressed recently that it would terminate the business relationship with the cotton-growing region should the allegations prove true.

The H&M statement resurfaced Wednesday on the social media account of the Communist Youth League, run by the Chinese Communist Party, shortly after the United States and some Western countries imposed sanctions on officials in China over the claims of rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Other Chinese state media, such as the Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, also ran reports that slammed H&M and other western brands for criticizing human rights in China while making money from the country.

On Saturday, Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which is perceived to be a China-friendly political party, stressed that the KMT will not sacrifice the values of freedom, democracy and human rights when it engages with China.

He said that the religious and labor rights of all the people in Xinjiang should be respected and protected, calling on the Chinese authorities to make transparent the working conditions of cotton workers in the region.

Freddy Lim (林昶佐), an independent legislator and singer in Taiwan, told reporters on Saturday before a concert in Kaohsiung that China's human rights situation is in sharp contrast to that in Taiwan.

This shows that the Taiwanese people should cherish and protect the freedom and democracy they enjoy, he said.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Liu Kuan-ting, Wang Hsin-yu and Emerson Lim)

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