A new independent investigation reports the Chinese government is engaged in “genocide” against Uyghur minorities in China, while the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has refused to step in and stop the certification of companies that engage in human rights abuses.
The Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy has completed a report on the treatment of Uyghurs in the Xijiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and concluded that “overwhelming evidence” shows the Chinese government is responsible for a pattern of forced detention, forced labor, rape, and forced sterilization of Uyghurs. Numerous, vast “re-education camps” have been set up in the XUAR, which then provide laborers to manufacturing companies operating in the region.
As reported previously by Oxebridge, manufacturing companies in the region include those certified by Guardian Independent Certification (GIC), SGS-UK, Bureau Veritas, and others. Some of these are then accredited by UKAS.
At the same time, UKAS-accredited bodies have issued ISO certificates to two Malaysian nitrile glove manufacturers, Top Glove and WRP, both of which have been found to be using slave labor. SIRIM and SGS both confirmed they have certified companies in the region, under the UKAS accreditation logo. Dozens of plants were certified, raising questions as to how no auditors could ever have reported the use of slaves in the facilities. At least some of the plants were likely to have been subject to on-site “witness audits” by UKAS as well.
When asked about the conflict, UKAS representative Jackie Burton denied any responsibility:
As the national accreditation body for the UK it is our role to assess the competence of those bodies we accredit in accordance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17021-1 and as part of that standard, certification bodies are expected to have a process for managing and responding to complaints relating to their certification activities.
UKAS has no direct relationship with Top Glove however, if there are concerns about their compliance with the certification standards and the activities of a certificated company we would expect these to be raised with the applicable certification body and for these concerns to be investigated.
Oxebridge then alerted Burton to the fact that ISO 17011 — under which UKAS operates — requires that accreditation bodies not allow their marks to be used in a way that brings “disrepute” to the scheme, thus enabling UKAS to recall the certificates under that clause. Burton did not reply.
UKAS is led by Matt Gantley, who has also personally refused to address the issue. To date, UKAS has not stopped any of the certification activities in the XUAR region, nor related to the Malaysian glove companies.
Armed with ISO 9001 and other such certifications, companies engaged in human rights abuses can project a sheen of legitimacy and gain access to lucrative private and public contracts. The refusal of bodies like UKAS to deny certifications to such companies amounts can be seen as helping promote those abuses.
UKAS is a member of the IAF, the president of which is Xiao Jianhua of the Chinese National Accreditation Service. In 2017, Xiao gave a speech praising his country’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which partially relies on the subjugated labor from the XUAR region. CNAS does not deny this, and has published an English-language copy of the speech on its website.
Oxebridge has called on the IAF to denounce the Chinese treatment of Uyghurs. Like UKAS, the IAF has ignored the demand.