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Concern 98 new buses headed to Wellington are linked to forced Uyghur labour in China

There are concerns 98 new electric buses on order for Wellington may be linked to forced labour in China.

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Greater Wellington Regional Council has 98 new electric buses on order from Chinese manufacturer CRRC. Source: 1 NEWS

The Greater Wellington Regional Council said it would be investigating whether the buses, from Chinese manufacturer CRRC, were made by Uyghur Muslims forced into work.

Councillor Roger Blakeley, chair of Greater Wellington’s transport committee, told 1 NEWS advice was sought from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

He said “no prohibition was noted” by MFAT. The first of the buses were set to hit Wellington's streets in July.

“While we can’t comment on the veracity of reports of forced labour, we acknowledge that ethical sourcing is emerging as an important issue, particularly with respect to significant international procurement,” he said.

“We rely on government direction but we have not been advised of any concerns that would potentially limit the supply of electric buses to the New Zealand market.”

Blakeley said the council would be reviewing how it bought buses and its due diligence process.

He said it would also work with operators to establish a supplier code of conduct. 

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman said it is another example of MFAT falling “way short” on its ethical obligations. 

She pointed to MFAT giving New Zealand companies the green light to export to countries on the UN blacklist. The Foreign Affairs Ministry approved exports to Saudi Arabia — and other nations — in 2016 and 2018 when they were on the blacklist for their actions in Yemen.

1 NEWS revealed in February that Air New Zealand’s Gas Turbines had helped the Saudi navy by repairing its engines, despite the Middle East nation fuelling a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and that MFAT had decided the engines were “not a controlled item” because they weren’t designed for military use. 

“MFAT needs to be investigated independently. They’re investigating themselves,” Ghahraman said.

She said of the Greater Wellington Regional Council: “I welcome their leadership independently of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to try and invest ethically. 

“But, it shouldn’t actually be up to everybody within our Government system and company in New Zealand to decide what ethical investing looks like.”

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The organisation says if New Zealand declared the deaths as genocide, it would help the persecuted community. Source: Breakfast

Parliament tomorrow is set to mull whether it debates a motion put forward by ACT on declaring the situation in Xinjiang as genocide. The motion can be thrown out if just one person objects. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta indicated last week the Labour Party would consider its position at caucus today. 

She said the Government has continually and publicly raised grave concerns about human rights in Xinjiang. 

During this morning's China Business Summit, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during her speech to the summit that managing the relationship with China "is not always going to be easy and there can be no guarantees".

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‘We need to ask ourselves the question, does this confront our values as a nation?” Ardern said at the China Business Summit. Source: 1 NEWS

"New Zealand and China are going to take different perspectives on some important issues. We will continue to work through these in a consistent manner, as we have always done.

"But as Minister Mahuta said last month, we need to acknowledge that there are some things on which China and New Zealand do not, cannot, and will not agree.

"This need not derail our relationship — it is simply a reality," Ardern said. 

Since at least 2017, Uyghurs — China’s Muslim minority — have been subjected to a mass surveillance and detention programme in Xinjiang, China's northwest territory.