As China continues to impose tariffs on Australian imports, efforts to ban imports related to Uyghur labor into China continue in Australia.
- Australia’s Uyghurs fear for loved ones still living in China
- Bill to ban exports from region using slave labor gains ground
- However, experts warn China could strike back with new trade sanctions against Australia
Yusuf Husein’s youngest children may never know their grandfather, uncles, aunts or cousins living in China.
“I’m worried about my dad – he’s over 85; my mom isn’t here, so how’s his situation? He’s an old man,” he said.
Mr Husein was in regular contact with his siblings and father from his home in Adelaide until their phones fell silent in 2017.
Although he appealed to the Australian and Chinese governments, he has not heard from his family since.
They are part of the Uyghur Muslim minority living in China’s Xinjiang Province.
Aid groups say that as her family disappeared, the Chinese Communist Party began to detain and forcibly indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.
A recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) also found that Uyghurs in China were forced to work in factories supplying the world’s insatiable appetite for products made in China.
Ramila Chanisheff of the Australian Association of Uyghur Tangritagh Women said that upon reading the report, she finally felt that she could do something in Australia to help.
“A report released by ASPI showed that more than 80 brands have their supply chains or buy products manufactured [using Uyghur forced labour] in whole or in part, so we thought that was something we needed to target and make sure that these products don’t get to Australian shores, ”she said.
The Chinese government has always denied human rights violations against Uyghurs and maintains that Uyghur workers are well paid.
‘DNA-style technology’ could help identify imports
Following similar steps by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, South Australian Independent Senator Rex Patrick is building all-party support in the Federal Parliament for a bill to make it illegal to import products made with the help of slaves.
Senator Patrick said customs would have the power to search and confiscate items under penalty of fines or up to 10 years in prison in extreme cases.
“There are a number of organizations that track supply chains associated with forced labor,” said Senator Patrick.
“There is also DNA-style technology that can alert customs to an area where the products are coming from.”
He said that while some state governments could be affected, Australian businesses would benefit in the long run.
“The government of Western Australia and the government of Victoria are using slave labor in their rail projects, this is unacceptable,” he said.
“There is also the advantage that Australian companies will no longer have to compete with imported products made from slave labor.
“The Senate committee identified a number of products but in fact focused on cotton from China which may well be the first target of our customs force if this bill passes.”
Multi-party support for creating invoices
Senator Patrick says the private member’s bill garners support from all sides of the political spectrum, including Liberal Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz.
Although the federal government’s position on the bill has not been formalized, Senator Abetz said he believes there is increasing pressure to support it.
“There is a movement around the world to say that this kind of behavior must stop no matter where it comes from and so I am encouraged that other freedom-loving countries around the world are moving down this path. “, he said.
Reform could lead to economic sanctions against Australia
Naoise McDonagh of the Institute for International Trade at the University of Adelaide said the move could potentially expose Australian industries to further Chinese trade sanctions.
“I think then there is going to be some substantial added friction to an already very unstable relationship.
“We don’t seem to have reached the bottom of this relationship breakdown.”
He said the Chinese government could extend or expand existing measures to disrupt Australia’s exports of wine, barley, timber and red meat to other industries.
“Beijing could decide to target certain sectors where it can get these products elsewhere,” he said.
He said the Chinese government also used a tactic known as “gray zoning” against European Union companies after imposing sanctions on China over their treatment of Uyghurs.
“This involved state-sanctioned boycotts, as well as shutting down other websites so customers could not access them,” he said.
“Apparently even mapping systems would not show [where some] the stores were. “
But Dr McDonagh said if democratic countries worked together, China’s ability to target individual countries diminished.
“If these countries work together, if they share information, they put together lists of high risk companies or high risk regions, then it is much more difficult for a particular country to be singled out,” he said. he declared.