Biden will push allies to act against China's forced labour at G-7

A perimeter fence around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States will urge its Group of Seven (G-7) allies to increase pressure on China over the use of forced labour in its north-western Xinjiang province, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, a top White House official said on Friday (April 23).

US President Joe Biden will attend a meeting of the G-7 advanced economies in person in Britain in June, where he is expected to focus on what he sees as a strategic rivalry between democracies and autocratic states, particularly China.

Mr Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser to Mr Biden and deputy director of the National Economic Council, said the G-7 meeting in Cornwall would focus on health security, a synchronised economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic, concrete actions on climate change, and "elevating shared democratic values within the G-7".

"These are like-minded allies, and we want to take tangible and concrete actions that show our willingness to coordinate on non-market economies, such as China," Mr Singh, who is helping to coordinate the meeting, told Reuters in an interview.

"The galvanising challenge for the G-7 is to show that open societies, democratic societies still have the best chance of solving the biggest problems in our world, and that top-down autocracies are not the best path," he said.

Mr Singh said Washington has already taken strong actions against China over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, but would seek to expand the effort with G-7 allies. Joint sanctions against Chinese officials accused of abuses in the province were announced last month by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada.

China denies all accusations of abuse and has responded with punitive measures of its own against the EU.

Mr Singh said details were still being worked out ahead of the meeting, but the summit offered an opportunity for US allies to show solidarity on the issue.

"We've made our views clear that our consumers deserve to know when that the goods they're importing are made with forced labour," he said. "Our values need to be infused in our trading relationships."

Washington, he said, would be looking for the G-7 to take clear steps "to elevate our shared values, as democracies and, and those certainly apply to what's going on Xinjiang".

Activists and UN rights experts say at least one million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations. China says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

The White House said on Friday that Mr Biden will travel to the United Kingdom and Belgium in June for his first overseas trip since taking office, including a stop at the G-7 Summit in Cornwall, UK, from June 11 to 13.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.