International human rights groups threaten lawsuit over Ireland-China trade relations

forced labour in China

Two international rights groups are threatening legal action if Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners and the Irish customs authorities do not ban cotton imports from China which are manufactured using forced labour.

The groups seeking the ban are Global Legal Action Network and the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.

If Chinese textile goods are not banned from being sold in Ireland, the two groups said they will refer the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.

They further said the groups will seek a ruling that would “re-write the relationship between retail stores and goods produced through forced labour” across the EU.

“The status quo is that we are open for business for goods produced against a backdrop of crimes against humanity and forced labour,” said Gearoid O Chin, director of the Global Legal Action Network, which has offices in Galway and London, as quoted by the Irish Times. “Retail stores are selling these goods in the full knowledge of what is going on” in Xinjiang, noted O Chin.

Earlier, the U.S. imposed restrictions on all imports from Xinjiang, believing that goods from the region have been produced using forced labour, unless it can be proven otherwise.

In 2014, the Beijing regime began to target the Uighur and other Turkic ethnic groups, who are largely Muslim.

Meanwhile, this past August the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights published a report detailing the existence of a network of camps by the authorities in Xinjiang. The report said, “the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uighur and predominantly Muslim groups… may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

Earlier, both groups sought to have a ban imposed by UK authorities, though without success.

China is the world’s largest producer of cotton, with more than 80 per cent coming from Xinjiang.