Andrew Forrest's philanthropic foundation condemns China's treatment of Uighurs
8 February 2021
Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic arm has publicly condemned the “forced labour and human rights abuses against the Uighur population”, as Human Rights Watch made a rare call for Australia to adopt targeted measures against China to halt imports linked to forced labour.
Forrest has previously been criticised for his refusal to condemn Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority despite funding a highly public campaign against modern-day slavery and forced labour.
His Fortescue Metals Group derives huge profits from Chinese demand which has underpinned recent increases to iron ore prices. It’s helped Fortescue secure a $1.2bn net profit in December alone.
“Walk Free acknowledges and condemns forced labour and human rights abuses against the Uighur population and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region,” the submission states. “Action to prevent the importation of goods made with forced labour in China would support Australia in meeting its international obligations to prevent modern slavery.”
In 2019, the ABC revealed that six Australian brands – Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Dangerfield, Ikea and H&M – sourced cotton from Xinjiang.
Cotton On and Target subsequently changed their supply chains due to human rights concerns, while Jeanswest conducted an internal inquiry and said it found no evidence of cotton from Xinjiang. At the time, Ikea and Dangerfield said they did source cotton from Xinjiang but were not aware of any forced labour. Ikea now says it sources no cotton from Xinjiang and goes to great lengths to ensure its supply chain is free of forced labour.