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4 Jan 2022

End Uyghur Forced Labour

China: Olympic Committee urged to disclose due diligence steps taken to identify and eliminate materials in merchandise produced with alleged Uyghur forced labour

"Uyghur Forced Labour Cannot Be Ruled Out in Beijing Olympics Merchandise", 4 January 2022

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should immediately disclose what, if any, specific due diligence steps it has taken to identify and eliminate any material produced with Uyghur forced labour in Olympic-branded merchandise, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region...said today...

The IOC’s refusal to discuss due diligence about forced labour in connection with the Games came as the U.S. Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act on December 16 and U.S. President Joe Biden signed it into law on December 22. The law bans imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Uyghur Region”).

The IOC’s official sportswear uniform supplier Anta Sports...[i]n March 2021...declared: “We have always bought and used cotton produced in China, including Xinjiang cotton, and in the future we will continue to do so.” That...statement should have been a red flag for the IOC...[b]ut the IOC has given no indication that it has taken any action.

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region engaged the IOC privately for eight months in 2021 to seek information and assess assurances about due diligence steps that the IOC may have taken to ensure that Olympic-branded merchandise is not made with forced Uyghur labour. On December 21, the IOC rejected the Coalition’s proposed terms for substantive, constructive, and mutually respectful two-way dialogue...

The IOC has committed to “responsible sourcing” in its Sustainability Strategy and IOC Supplier Code and told the Coalition that “From time to time, the IOC carries out specific due diligence on suppliers deemed to represent specific environmental, social or ethical risks” and that it has “started commissioning third-party social audits.”  Moreover, the IOC informed the Coalition on October 29 that “In the coming months, we will be looking at strengthening and systematising this approach by evaluating more formally the risks of our suppliers of goods and services and licensees and carrying out third-party due diligence systematically on our high-risk providers.”

But the fact that the IOC is only now “looking at” ways to carry out third-party due diligence and third-party audits is shocking...

The IOC said that “If concrete allegations of forced labour directly related to the Games were to be raised, the IOC would hear them and address them with the Organising Committee. Following an investigation, if the allegations are confirmed we would request an immediate remediation of the issue, consider possible discontinuation of the sourcing activity, and if possible, the return and alternative sourcing of the goods.” ...

...there is no evidence that the IOC has conducted such due diligence or a human rights impact assessment—related to forced labour of Uyghurs or otherwise. Nor has the IOC disclosed any engagement with the Beijing Organising Committee...on forced labour or other labour or human rights risks.

The IOC’s 2020 expert report “Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy” states that “the human rights impacts that could be connected to the Games are severe.” While the IOC reports that its human rights work has been “informed” by these recommendations, there is no indication that the IOC implemented this strategy related to human rights risks and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games...