Lawmakers Call for Action on Mass Vocational Training in Tibet

September 24, 2020 Updated: September 24, 2020

A group of international legislators on Tuesday condemned the Chinese regime for allegedly imposing a mass vocational training program on Tibet reminiscent of the system used in Xinjiang.

In a statement, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) called for governments to investigate reports of forced labor and ethnic persecution in China and sanction those responsible.

The statement accompanies the publication of a report (pdf) co-published by IPAC that highlights “an apparent widespread system of forced labor in Tibet” perpetrated by the Chinese regime.

The vocational training program for rural laborers “appears disturbingly reminiscent of coercive vocational training and mass labor transfers imposed by the Chinese authorities in the Uyghur region,” the statement reads.

Moving surplus rural labor into industry is a key part of China’s drive to boost the economy and reduce poverty. But in areas like Xinjiang and Tibet, with large ethnic populations and a history of unrest, rights groups say the programs include an outsized emphasis on ideological training. And the government quotas and military-style management, they say, suggest the transfers have coercive elements.

China scholar Adrian Zenz, who authored the report, said that, in his opinion, the program is “the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution.”

The report was corroborated by a Reuters investigation published on Tuesday.

The lawmakers said the report shows that despite criticisms from the international community, Beijing continues to abuse “basic human rights.”

“We stand united in unequivocal condemnation of these practices and call upon the Chinese government to halt these atrocities immediately,” the lawmakers wrote.

In a statement to Reuters, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labor, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.

IPAC urged governments to impose targeted Magnitsky-style sanctions upon those responsible and revise their risk advice to businesses so that they can avoid purchasing goods produced by forced labor.

They also asked governments to call for reciprocal access to Tibet in order to conduct an independent international investigation into the situation of the Tibetan people, and install a UN special rapporteur to investigate alleged forced labor and ethnic persecution in the People’s Republic of China.

The 63 signatories represent Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, the United States, and 10 European countries.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives “overwhelmingly” passed The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would “prevent certain imports from Xinjiang and imposing sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations.”

Reuters contributed to this report