Activists Call Out ‘Virtually the Entire Apparel Industry’ for Ties to Uyghur Forced Labor Camps in China

A coalition of over 180 rights groups has tagged numerous international brands for their participation in the exploitation of the Uyghur Muslim minority serving in labor camp factories in China.

Forced labor: In a letter published on Thursday, the coalition End Uyghur Forced Labour condemned major labels for allegedly sourcing their products from Xinjiang, where many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uyghur people, are detained in labor camps, reports The Guardian

  • Since April 2017, between eight hundred thousand to two million Uyghurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained in “reeducation camps.”
  • Outside of the detention centers, about eleven million Uyghurs have been living under heavy crackdown by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang for decades. 
  • China, which is the world’s top supplier of cotton products, gets 84% of its cotton products from Xinjiang.
  • According to the activists, their findings were based on credible news investigations and reports that tie the 38 companies to cotton products sourced from Uyghur or Turkic Muslim labor camps. 
  •  The activists further claim that the amount of cotton or yarn from Xinjiang accounts for 20% of cotton garments sold globally.
  • Virtually the entire apparel industry is tainted by forced Uyghur and Turkic Muslim labour,” noted the group in the letter.
  • The cited brands, which can be seen here, include Nike, Amazon, Adidas, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Patagonia, Zara, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Persistent, lingering issue: Many of the cited clothing labels have since come out to say they are looking into the claims, which as the group’s letter pointed out, have also been reported on a variety of channels

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  • For its part, Nike has stated that it was “conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential risks related to employment of Uyghur or other ethnic minorities.”
  • H&M also said it was already reviewing its indirect partnership with a yarn producer operating in Xinjiang.
  • While denying it was sourcing finished products in Xinjiang, PVH Corporation, which owns both Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, said it would close any commercial link with factories and mills, or stop using cotton grown in the region.  
  • Adidas denies sourcing its goods from Xinjiang, but noted it told suppliers to not source products from the region as well.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Anti-Slavery International CEO Jasmine O’Connor OBE, one of the signatories in the letter, noted: “The only way brands can ensure they are not profiting from the exploitation is by exiting the region and ending relationships with suppliers propping up this Chinese government system.

 

An earlier study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) linked 83 multinational companies, including Nike, Adidas, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung to forced labor by Uyghurs in factories across China, Forbes reports.

Feature Image (left) via Getty, (right) via War on Fear战斗恐惧

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