London [UK]: An international cross-party network of legislators across the European Union, the United Kingdom, India, Australia and Canada have called on their governments to block investors from bankrolling firms perpetrating forced labour abuses in China's Xinjiang province.
This comes after reports emerged that HSBC has held shares in a subsidiary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), which was hit by US Treasury Department sanctions in 2020.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) said the 35 legislators, representing over 10 countries, urged their governments to draw up a blacklist of entities identified as perpetrating atrocities in the Uyghur Region, with firms barred from investing in blacklisted entities.
The calls were made in a series of separate letters, attached, coordinated by the IPAC and sent last week.
Prominent signatories include Reinhard Butikofer MEP, chair of the European Parliament's China delegation; Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, former leader of the UK Conservative party; Australia Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching and Indian BJD MP Sujeet Kumar. The letters were addressed to the legislators' respective finance ministers, including European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness and UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The calls come after it was revealed that HSBC had purchased GBP £2.2 million of shares in Xinjiang Tianye, a plastics manufacturer owned by the XPCC, IPAC said in a press release.
"The XPCC, a Chinese state-operated paramilitary conglomerate, facilitates the Xinjiang's coercive labour transfer programmes and operates many of the region's so-called 'vocational training' centres – where experts believe at least one million Uyghurs have been detained and subjected to abuses including, forced labour, torture and sexual abuse," the IPAC release said.
HSBC has previously come under fire from members of IPAC for its role in freezing the assets of former Hong Kong opposition legislator Ted Hui in December 2020.
The events led to HSBC being called before the UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, where it was accused of abetting the Hong Kong government's crackdown on the city's pro-democracy movement.
Reinhard Butikofer, German Green MEP and Co-Chair of IPAC said: "We cannot ignore the role that big banks play in financing the abuses taking place in Xinjiang. If they are knowingly investing in firms perpetrating forced labour and other human rights abuses, then it is right that they should be held to account."
"We are calling on the Commission to urgently bring forward measures to not only prevent goods made with forced labour from entering our markets, but also to prevent our banks from investing in them."
Siobhain McDonagh, UK Labour MP and member of the Treasury Select Committee said: "HSBC's investments in Xinjiang Tianye demonstrate the deep ties between international finance and the Uyghur Region. It is completely unacceptable that banks like HSBC, which are headquartered and registered in the UK, should invest in groups perpetrating industrial scale human rights abuses against the Uyghurs."
McDonagh added that the UK government must act to stop British firms from bankrolling modern slavery in the Uyghur Region and elsewhere. (ANI)