China hails Xinjiang jobs success as criticism mounts

China hails Xinjiang jobs success as criticism mounts
Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich region. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 September 2020

China hails Xinjiang jobs success as criticism mounts

China hails Xinjiang jobs success as criticism mounts
  • Rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang
  • On Thursday the government published a white paper staunchly defending its policy in the region

BEIJING: China lauded the success of its vocational and jobs schemes in the troubled Xinjiang region on Thursday, just days after the US government said they were being operated from facilities run like “concentration camps.”
Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich region, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps.
US customs said Monday it would bar a raft of Chinese products from Xinjiang over fears of forced labor, saying “religious and ethnic minorities are... forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom.”
Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told reporters: “This is not a vocational center, it is a concentration camp.”
But Beijing says the centers are for vocational training, necessary for counter terrorism efforts and to provide education for alleviating poverty.
On Thursday the government published a white paper staunchly defending its policy in the region, where it says training programs, work schemes and better education mean life has improved.
The report says Xinjiang has “vigorously implemented employment projects, enhanced vocational training, and expanded employment channels and capacity.”
It says vocational training for millions has improved the quality of the workforce.
“Xinjiang has built a large knowledge-based, skilled and innovative workforce that meets the requirements of the new era,” the report reads.
Training includes teaching written and spoken Mandarin, labor skills and giving knowledge of urban life, according to the report, which says rural people have started businesses or taken employment in factories after state support.
Every year between 2014 and 2019, Xinjiang gave “training sessions” to an average of 1.29 million urban and rural workers, it says, adding that employment policies “meet the people’s needs (and) improve their wellbeing.”
However, the white paper warns there is a low level of vocational skills and says “terrorists, separatists and religious extremists” have encouraged the public not to learn Chinese, to “reject modern science, and refuse to improve their vocational skills.”
Swedish clothing giant H&M said this week it was ending its relationship with a Chinese yarn producer over accusations of “forced labor” in Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.
Beijing has denied claims of forced labor and in Tuesday’s report said it would take “resolute action” against it.
The EU meanwhile has urged China to allow independent observers to travel to the highly surveilled region.
China this week said experts were “welcome” but did not detail if they would be allowed free access to the controversial faciltiies.
State media frequently shows apparently happy vocational students studying or working in the large facilities.
But rights groups have warned of forced detentions and political indoctrination as part of a campaign by the Chinese Communist Party to erase the ethnic group’s identity and culture.
In a white paper on Xinjiang in March, China defended its controversial security crackdown and said nearly 13,000 “terrorists” have been arrested there since 2014.


Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19
Updated 14 min 26 sec ago

Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19
  • Manila brings home 400,000 overseas workers affected by the pandemic

MANILA: Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reminded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to remain vigilant against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and follow the health and safety protocols of their host countries, especially with the emergence of a new and more contagious strain.

More COVID-19 infections have been recorded among Filipinos abroad, with the highest number of cases reported in the Middle East.

“There is no room for complacency. We cannot let our guard down. Despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in your country of work, the virus remains an imminent threat to your health and safety,” Bello said in a statement on Monday.

Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Bello said the Middle East remains the region with “highest recorded cases of infection among OFWs at 7,844 as of Jan. 13.”

The region also has the highest number of OFW deaths due to COVID-19, reaching 619 according to the report.

On Sunday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that “Qatar reported the single biggest number of cases at 3,873, with 14 new COVID-19 infections among OFWs in the last 24 hours. Nineteen OFW casualties were recorded.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a report on Monday, confirmed a total of 13,591 COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad as of Jan. 18. Of the total number, 3,968 are undergoing treatment; 8,682 have recovered, while 941 died.

Based on the DFA data, countries in Europe and the Americas have over 3,000 cases with 317 deaths, while there were 2,746 OFW infections in Asia and the Pacific, with 21 deaths.

More than 400,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by the pandemic have been brought home by the government, the DOLE reported during the weekend.

Latest figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) showed that 8,273 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces last week alone, up from 7,895 the previous week.

In a report to Bello, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said total repatriates who have undergone quarantine and been cleared of COVID-19 stood at 410,211 as of Jan. 16.

“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” Bello said.

It is estimated that about 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs will be repatriated this year. Those awaiting repatriation form part of the over 520,000 OFWs displaced by the pandemic.