Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China will work to ratify some international rules governing forced labor as it seeks to cement a trade deal with the European Union– as he called accusations the ruling Communist Party is carrying out genocide against the ethnic minority Uighurs “ridiculously absurd.”
Wang, speaking at a news conference on Sunday, said China will take steps to adopt some International Labor Organization regulations on forced labor, which, if ignored, could scuttle the deal with the EU, Politico reported.
The European Parliament is expected to thoroughly review the agreement signed in December amid criticism that it fails to address the treatment of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
Beijing agreed to make “continued and sustained efforts” to seek ratification of two ILO clauses, the report said.
“As long as China and the EU cooperate autonomously and independently, we can make many major achievements,” Wang said. “There is no such thing that China would like to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Europe. At the same time, China is happy to see the EU strengthening its strategic autonomy.”
At the news conference Wang denied accusations that China is carrying out genocide against the Muslim minority group.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is ridiculously absurd. It is a rumor with ulterior motives and a complete lie,” he said.
“When it comes to ‘genocide,’ most people think of native North Americans in the 16th century, African slaves in the 19th century, Jews in the 20th century, and the indigenous Australians who are still fighting today,” he continued.
The US and a number of countries have blasted China for indefinitely detaining members of the Uighur population in “re-education” camps in the western part of the country, where they undergo systematic rape, sterilization, torture and forced labor.
The State Department last month said that it was “deeply disturbed” by a report that women in the concentration camps are being raped and sexually abused.
“These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences,” a state department spokeswoman told Reuters.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang,” the official continued.
In January, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Communist Party’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century.”
“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” the State Department said in a release.
But President Biden took heat after he called the mass detention of the Uighurs a “different norm” during a town hall in February when he described a phone call he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“And so the idea that I am not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan — trying to end the one China policy by making it forceful … [Xi] gets it,” Biden said.
“Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”
In January the US banned all cotton and tomato products made in Xinjiang based on information that the Chinese Communist Party was using detainees for “prison labor” in reeducation camps to make the products.
“The agency identified the following forced labor indicators through the course of its investigation: debt bondage, restriction of movement, isolation, intimidation and threats, withholding of wages, and abusive living and working conditions,” CBP said in a statement at the time.
The order directed CBP personnel at all US ports to hold up the products, including “apparel, textiles, tomato seeds, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and other goods made with cotton and tomatoes.”