The International Labour Organization (ILO) says once the ratifications are made for both the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), China will have 28 ILO ratified conventions, including six of the eight Fundamental Conventions.

The ILO explains: “By approving these ratifications, China is reinforcing its commitment to eliminating forced labour within its jurisdiction, realise work in freedom for its 1.4 billion people, and respect the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work.”

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder adds: “I welcome the ratification by China of these two ILO Fundamental Conventions on forced labour. The move demonstrates China’s strong support for ILO values and reflects its commitment to protect any female or male workers from being trapped into forced labour practices, which have no place nor justification in today’s world. This is a milestone on the road towards universal ratification of the forced labour Conventions and the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 8, Target 7 .”

He believes these ratifications could create renewed momentum and further efforts by the government and the social partners in China to support human-centred development and decent work in line with the ILO Centenary Declaration on the Future of Work.

The first of China’s two new ratified conventions – No. 29 – prohibits the use of forced labour in all its forms and requires State parties to make forced labour practices punishable as penal offences. While, the second convention – No. 105 – calls for the immediate abolition of forced or compulsory labour in five specific circumstances listed in its article 1.

These conventions will enter into force in China one year after their instruments of ratification are deposited with the ILO.

The ILO says it plans to expand its collaboration with China’s government and social partners for the full implementation of these two conventions and the full realisation of principles under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The organisation, which is a United Nations agency that sets international labour standards, explains that latest global estimates show about 25 million people around the world are forced to work under threat or coercion.

The ILO also points out that many other workers, who were hard hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic, have become more vulnerable to being trapped into forced labour.

There has been lots of controversy regarding the export of Xinjiang cotton from China over the past few years due to forced labour claims with the US signing a bill in December that banned the import of all goods into the country from that specific region.