ILO – International Labour Conference – EU Statement: Committee on Application of Standards: China

(Source: EEAS)

Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

Thank you, Chair.

I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The EU and its Member States are committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, including labour rights.

We actively promote the universal ratification and implementation of the fundamental international labour conventions. We support the ILO in its indispensable role to develop, promote and supervise the application of ratified international labour standards and of fundamental Conventions in particular.

The principle of equality and non-discrimination is a fundamental element of international human rights and labour law, as well as at the EU level. Convention 111 is the translation of this fundamental human right to the world of work, employment and occupation.

We seize this opportunity to discuss the implementation of Convention 111 in China.

During the recent 23rd bilateral EU-China Summit, the Leaders discussed the state of bilateral relations, reviewed areas of shared interest, and explored possible ways to ensure a more balanced and reciprocal trade relationship.

In recent years, China has made notable efforts in poverty alleviation, improved access to health, education and implemented other social improvements for its citizens. We noted the information provided by the Government and considered carefully the provisions of the Labour Law and the Employment Promotion Law. However, in line with the Committee’s observations, we express our concern about their direct or indirect discriminatory effect on the employment opportunities due to inadequate implementation and the methods applied in the realisation of their stated objectives, in particular for persons belonging to ethnic and/or religious minorities in China.

We note the Committee’s conclusions on existing normative gaps in the national legislation and underline the importance of a clear and comprehensive legal definition of discrimination (both direct and indirect) that allows for covering all aspects of employment and occupation. We recall that freedom from discrimination is essential for workers to choose their employment freely.

The EU and its Member States continue to be deeply concerned about the apparent discrimination with respect to human as well as labour rights in China. More specifically, we remain gravely concerned about situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), in particular the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, the documented use of forced labour, widespread surveillance, lack of freedom of movement, and systemic restrictions on freedom of religion or belief against Uighurs and those belonging to other minorities in the region.

We note with great concern the climate of intolerance, which is conducive to discrimination in employment and occupation and forced labour of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang assigned to factories in XUAR and other provinces, including the continuous implementation of the XUAR regulation on de‑radicalization. We fully echo the Committee’s request to amend the respective national and regional regulatory provisions with a view to re-orienting the mandate of vocational training and education centres.

We reiterate our call on China to comply with its obligations under C111, which stipulates that the Government has to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation for all, including with respect to ethnic and religious groups in China, in particular in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia.

We welcome the decision by the China’s National People’s Congress to approve the ratification of the Forced Labour Conventions No.29 and No.105 and expect that the full alignment of Chinese laws and regulations with these Forced Labour Conventions as well as their effective implementation. We hope that this fundamental step in protection of all workers, with no discrimination of any kind, will take less time than the effective implementation of Discrimination Convention 111.

The EU and its Member States stand ready to further engage with China in bilateral and in multilateral fora in its efforts to fully implement the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention

Should the Committee decide on requesting a fact-finding tripartite high‑level mission, we would see the value in that mission in order to support the government in its obligation to effectively implement the conclusions of this Committee.

While taking note of the non-investigative nature of last week’s visit to China by High Commissioner Michele Bachelet, we regret that her access to independent civil society organisations, human rights defenders and detention centres was limited. We continue to call on China for meaningful, unrestricted and unsupervised access for UN special procedures mandate holders, independent international experts, foreign journalists and diplomats to Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere in China.

Thank you Chair.

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