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China: Ethnic minorities detained in internment camps reportedly subject to forced labour in factories supplying to major apparel brands; Incl. co responses

In December 2018, an investigation by the Associated Press linked US sportswear brand Badger Sport to a factory inside an internment camp in Xinjiang province, China, where Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities are allegedly being subject to forced labour. A UN committee has described Xinjiang province as resembling a "mass internment camp", and estimates more than 1 million Uighurs have been sent to prison or re-education camps. Following the Associated Press report, Badger Sport CEO John Anton said that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it conducted an investigation. A Sourcing Update from Badger Sport is included below. In January 2019, Badger Sport announced it was severing the relationship with its Xinjiang supplier based on an "abundance of caution" and it would no longer source products from "this region of China."

In July 2019, an investigation by Four Corners identified several more brands as sourcing from Xinjiang. More information can be found in the article linked below. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the brands named in the investigation to respond to allegations of ethnic minorities being subject to forced labour in factories in Xinjiang. Esprit responded that it has instructed suppliers to stop sourcing yarn from the factory highlighted in the Four Corners report, following its own investigation. Adidas responded that it had also asked suppliers to suspend sourcing of yarn from the same factory following its investigation and is waiting on the results of an independent third-party investigation to verify its own findings. IKEA responded that some of its sub-suppliers are in Xinjiang, and that the cotton is sourced according to the Better Cotton Initiative. PVH, UNIQLO, H&M, Cotton On, Nike, Woolworths and Wesfarmers all said they were either investigating or had committed to investigate or review the situation. Factory X and Noni B responded and signposted to their ethical sourcing policies. All of the responses can be found in full below. Glorious Sun (Jeanswest) and Just Group did not respond.

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All components of this story

Company response
6 August 2019

Response by Nike

Author: Nike

Nike does not directly source products from Xinjiang. We are in the process of conducting an ongoing internal review with our suppliers to assess any connection to the region.

Our Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards have strict requirements prohibiting any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor at supplier facilities, including detailed provisions for freedom of movement and guidance for the management of workers with unique vulnerabilities. 

Download the full document here

Company response
6 August 2019

Response by Noni B

Author: Noni B

Attached is Noni B Group’s ethical sourcing policy, which makes it clear that the Group will not knowingly work with any business that does not comply with the ETI base code. As far as we are aware, Noni B Group has not been included in any accurate report of companies manufacturing in Xinjiang.

[Noni B Group's ethical sourcing policy is attached]

Download the full document here

Company response
6 August 2019

Response by PVH

Author: Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH)

We...are working with industry and civil society to investigate claims regarding the use of forced labor in Xinjiang...Per PVH policy, forced labor is considered a zero tolerance issue. At this time PVH is leveraging our networks, partners and relationships in the region and will conduct due diligence to the extent reasonably possible given the current climate in the region...

Download the full document here

Company response
6 August 2019

Response by Wesfarmers

Author: Wesfarmers

...Target Australia take any breaches of our Ethical Sourcing Code very seriously, including any allegations of forced labour.  Following the recent reports of alleged forced labour at the Huafu Mill in Xinjiang, we conducted internal checks and identified that one Target direct supplier is using a small amount of cotton yarn from that mill. Target is conducting a review of the situation...

Download the full document here

Company response
29 July 2019

Response by UNIQLO

Author: UNIQLO

...UNIQLO does not have any production partners located in the Xinjiang province of China, with no such suggestion in the recent ABC report. However, we are aware of this and other recent media reports about the province, and are looking into the matter.

Download the full document here

Company non-response
28 July 2019

Glorious Sun (Jeanswest) did not respond

Author: Glorious Sun

Company response
19 July 2019

Response by Woolworths

Author: Big W, Woolworths

  ...We can confirm we have no ​factories located in Xinjiang, China and have not received any complaints against our suppliers. ​We are aware, however, that some of the cotton sourced via our suppliers is likely to be from this region and we are conducting further due diligence.  

Currently, we do not have full visibility of the cotton supply chain however we are working to improve traceability and transparency in key high risk commodity areas, like cotton, through our Responsible Sourcing Program in the next 12 months.

Where there are systemic challenges identified, we will work with industry to find a solution to better leverage change. We recognise our role as a responsible retailer and will  continue to work hard to make further improvements in this space. 

Download the full document here

Company non-response
18 July 2019

Just Group did not respond

Author: Just Group

16 July 2019

Australian brands sourcing cotton from North West China to investigate after reports of forced labour of ethnic minorities

Author: Sophie McNeill, Jeanavive McGregor, Meredith Griffiths, Michael Walsh, Echo Hui & Bang Xiao, ABC news

"Cotton On and Target investigate suppliers after forced labour of Uyghurs exposed in China's Xinjiang", 16 July 2019

...Four Corners can reveal that the following brands sold in Australia source cotton from Xinjiang: Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Dangerfield, Ikea and H&M. Cotton On and Target Australia are now investigating their relationships with suppliers in Xinjiang...

Target Australia told Four Corners that one of its direct suppliers is using a small amount of cotton yarn from a mill owned by a company called Huafu Fashion Co in Xinjiang. In May, a worker at a Huafu mill... told the Wall Street Journal she had come to the mill from a secret training program which removed her "extremist thoughts"... [T]he manager of the Huafu factory denied.. that his company used any form of involuntary labour. Target Australia said it was, "conducting a review of the situation".

…H&M, Adidas and Esprit are investigating or have suspended their relationships with Huafu…and UNIQLO, Nike, and PVH Corp…said they are looking into the issue…Nike said it was reviewing whether its suppliers sourced materials from the far-western region.

Ikea told Four Corners that…[it] is not aware of any forced labour among its sub suppliers in China...

…Dangerfield says…it inspects factories and…its suppliers have signed agreements not to purchase cotton…produced from forced labour camps.

Woolworths said some of the cotton Big W sources is likely to be from Xinjiang and…it is "working to improve traceability and transparency in key high-risk commodity areas, like cotton, through our Responsible Sourcing Program..."

Questions still remain about the cotton supply of…other well-known Australian brands. Just Group… sources 84 per cent of their products from China but would not tell Four Corners which regions the goods come from or rule out that they were from Xinjiang. Similarly, the Noni B group…would not rule out that products came from Xinjiang...

Read the full post here

13 March 2019

China: Officials hint Xinjiang detention camps to be phased out; But relatives concerned detainees are being released into forced labour

Author: Lily Kuo, Guardian

"Xinjiang detention camps may be phased out, governor suggests", 13 March 2019

Top officials in Xinjiang have hinted that the system of internment centres used to hold a million Muslim minorities may one day be phased out.

Researchers say huge numbers of people, mostly Uighurs, are being held in detention and re-education camps in the far western territory as part of a huge security crackdown in the name of counter terrorism efforts...

“In general there will be fewer and fewer students in the centres. If one day our society doesn’t need them, the education and training centres will disappear,” said Shohrat Zakir the governor of the region and its most senior Uighur official. Zakir’s comments come after months of mounting international criticism...

Detainees are slowly being released from the camps, but remain under house arrest, according to some reports based on accounts from relatives. Other reports say the camps are feeding into a forced labor system where detainees are released but ordered to work in textile factories...

Read the full post here