Jacinda Ardern distances herself from Labour MP Louisa Wall who accused China of harvesting organs

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has distanced herself from Labour MP Louisa Wall's accusation that China is harvesting organs from political prisoners. 

Wall, who is part of a global Inter-​Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) which monitors the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), told RNZ the Government needs to do more to counter what she described as slave labour in China. 

"I'm concerned that there appears to be a million Uighurs being imprisoned in what they call education camps, but essentially, used as slaves to pick cotton," Wall said. 

"What the UK and Canada have done is they've got modern slavery acts and they want to ensure the corporates who are taking those raw materials, actually ensure that the production of those raw materials complies with the modern slavery act. I like that mechanism."

Ardern, responding to Wall's comments at a press conference on Monday, said Wall wasn't speaking on behalf of the Government but as chair of the New Zealand branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). 

"When it comes to the wider issue here, keeping in mind, the member here [spoke] with her IPU hat on rather than as a member of the Government, in that regard," Ardern said. 

"We speak as ministers and as representatives of the Government. It doesn't curtail any member who's part of the IPU from speaking with that hat on."

Wall based her accusations on findings from a recent independent report called the China Tribunal, which says organs are still being harvested from political prisoners in China, despite it announcing in 2014 the practice had stopped

Labour MP Louisa Wall.
Labour MP Louisa Wall. Photo credit: Getty

Ardern said the Government is already working on modern slavery legislation. 

"Labour and the Government already have a position that we do need to do more on slavery and in fact, it was part of our election manifesto."

She said an advisory group has been established within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to help support the potential update of legislation. 

"We need to make sure that when we're looking at modern slavery legislation that we get those settings right just generally and so we do want to make sure that we use the input of those who will likely be affected by the law and that's what that advisory group is all about - helping us get that right, because it affects supplychain and so on."

Ardern said New Zealand does not import organs from any country except as part of donor arrangements with Australia. 

"We have raised, as a Government, the issue of organ transplantation, with China, and we have sought updates on this issue and policy reforms for consent and transparency. So this is something that we've raised at that level."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

It's estimated more than a million Uighurs - a mostly Muslim Turkic minority group that number about 11 million in China's Xinjiang region - have been detained in camps, which have been widely condemned as akin to prisons.

China says they offer classes on Mandarin, laws, regulations and vocational skills, and provide counter-terrorism training and psychological counselling for those affected by "extremist thoughts".  

But former detainees have spoken of torture and brainwashing, and women being forcibly sterilised. A Kiwi Uighur told Newshub Nation in April the Government wasn't doing enough to help families whose loved ones have disappeared into the camps.  

Ardern issued a joint statement with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month expressing concern about alleged human rights abuses inflicted on Uighurs, as well as deteriorating democratic rights in Hong Kong. 

China's foreign affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the statement of concerns as "irresponsible", which Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta brushed off as "predictable".