Foreign firms intentionally dismissing Xinjiang staff could be violating labor laws
Published: Jul 28, 2021 05:33 PM
Local residents walk in a street at a scenic spot in the ancient city of Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhao Ge)

Local residents walk in a street at a scenic spot in the ancient city of Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhao Ge)

The US has been targeting China with a fabricated "forced labor" accusations in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region since last year. The US Senate recently passed a bill to ban the import of goods "produced using forced labor in the Xinjiang", unless importers can prove their suppliers do not use forced labor.

It is worth noting that, in this period, some enterprises reportedly have had second thoughts about hiring staff from Xinjiang and some foreign-funded enterprises in China have either stopped hiring or even chosen to dismiss their existing employees from the region.  

Such moves might be driven mainly by concerns about potential impacts on their exports to the US, while China has become a stabilizer of global trade after bringing the epidemic under control. China's trade with the US has seen a significant increase as well, among with foreign-funded enterprises in China have played an important role.  

There are nearly 300 million migrant workers in China who go to find jobs in cities in their nearby regions or in other provinces. It has become an approach for farmers to increase their income and lift themselves out of poverty which is also a common in most developing countries in the world.  This is an effective way to reduce poverty and by no means has it been viewed as a "forced labor" by workers from Xinjiang or other regions in China.

The US' accusation of alleged "forced labor" in Xinjiang is full of prejudice, clearly unsubstantiated and aimed at containing China's development. Following the US' logic, isn't that true that Xinjiang's workers need jobs? Is it that they cannot look for jobs outside of their hometown? Can the fact that there are Xinjiang workers working outside of their hometown only be a result of "coercion" from governments?

Every person has the right to work, which is a basic principle recognized in international law and one of the core elements of relevant Chinese laws. China's constitution clearly stipulates that "citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right as well as the duty to work. Through various channels, the State creates conditions for employment, enhances occupational safety and health, improves working conditions and, on the basis of expanded production, increases remuneration for work and welfare benefits." 

Also, the Labour Law of the People's Republic of China stipulates that labourers have the right to be employed on an equal basis, choose occupations, obtain remunerations for labour, take rests, among other rights.

Certain foreign-funded enterprises in China are suspected of violating China's labor laws and regulations by deliberately rejecting or dismissing workers from Xinjiang.  On the one hand, it is a violation of fair employment. As the Labour Law specifies, labourers shall not be discriminated against in employment due to their nationality, race, sex, or religious belief. This means that companies should not discriminate against workers because they belong to a certain ethnic group. 

On the other hand, it also violates the relevant terms of labor contracts. According to the Labour Law, labour contracts shall terminate upon the expiration of their time limits or the occurrence of the conditions agreed upon in labour contracts by the parties involved for terminating these contracts. The trade union shall have the right to air its opinions if it regards as inappropriate the revocation of a labour contract by the employer. If the employer violates laws, regulations or labour contracts, its trade union shall have the right to ask for handling the case anew. If labourers apply for arbitration or raise lawsuits, the trade union shall render support and help in accordance with law.

If enterprises violate labor laws and regulations to dismiss workers, the affected employees may take their claim to an arbitration panel or protect their labor rights and interests through legal channels. They may also demand necessary compensation from the enterprises.  

It should be pointed out that foreign-funded enterprises in China are not beyond the law and there will be consequences should they play a role coordinating with the US government to vilify China. Facts have repeatedly proved that such moves not only entail a legal liability but also erode economic benefits. It is simply a lose-lose approach.

The article was compiled based on a commentary written by Li Changan, professor of the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics.