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Japan Lawmakers Seek Probe of Carmaker Links to Xinjiang Abuses

Tokyo Should Enact Human Rights Laws to Counter Beijing’s Repression

A large screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping near a carpark in Kashgar, in western China's Xinjiang region, December 3, 2018. © 2018 AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

A group of Japanese ruling party and opposition lawmakers are calling on the government to investigate links between carmakers and forced labor in the aluminum industry in Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China.

Human Rights Watch published a report earlier this year exposing global carmakers’ failure to minimize the risk of Uyghur forced labor being used in aluminum supply chains. The Diet members urged the Japanese government to provide “measures and alternatives” to tainted aluminum.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and cultural and religious persecution, and has subjected Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim communities to forced labor inside and outside Xinjiang.

The link between Xinjiang, the aluminum industry, and forced labor is the Chinese government-backed labor transfer program, which coerce Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims into jobs in Xinjiang and other regions. Human Rights Watch reviewed online Chinese state media articles, company reports, and government statements, and found credible evidence that aluminum producers in Xinjiang are participating in labor transfers.

The group of lawmakers, called the Non-Partisan Parliamentary Association for Reconsidering Human Rights Diplomacy, was co-founded in 2021 by Shiori Kanno, a former parliamentarian, and Gen Nakatani, a ruling party lawmaker. The group is a rare outspoken voice within the Diet pushing the Japanese government to prioritize human rights in its foreign policy.

Specifically, Kanno has led the group to call for the introduction of a human rights sanctions law and a human rights due diligence law that would require companies to address rights violations in their supply chains.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong authorities named Kanno as a “conspirator” in the trial of Jimmy Lai, founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, who faces charges under the draconian National Security Law and a sedition law. These baseless accusations against Kanno suggest her campaign against supply chain abuses is being felt by the Chinese government.

The Japanese government should heed the bipartisan group’s repeated calls by swiftly enacting a human rights due diligence law as well as a human rights sanctions law. The government should also impose coordinated and targeted sanctions on officials who are implicated in serious rights abuses.

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