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23 Jul 2020

Annie Kelly, The Guardian

Coalition of human rights groups allege majority of global apparel sector complicit in forced labour of ethnic minorities in China

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“‘Virtually entire’ fashion industry complicit in Uighar forced labour, say rights groups”, 23 July 2020

Many of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers are complicit in the forced labour and human rights violations being perpetrated on millions of Uighur people in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, says a coalition of more than 180 human rights groups.

… [T]he coalition of human rights groups says many of the world’s leading clothing brands continue to source cotton and yarn produced through a vast state-sponsored system of forced labour…

The coalition has published an extensive list of brands it claims continue to source from the region, or from factories connected to the forced labour of Uighur people, including Gap, C&A, Adidas, Muji, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.

The coalition says many more leading clothing brands also continue to maintain lucrative strategic partnerships with Chinese companies … benefiting from the forced labour of Uighur people…

According to the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), one of the signatories of the call to action, brands have no credible way of proving that their supply chains from the Xinjiang are free of forced labour.

In response, H&M and Ikea said they would stop buying cotton from the region … H&M said that it had an indirect relationship with one yarn producer operating in the region but said it was reviewing the relationship.

Muji confirmed ... “Our business partner [assures] us that the people who make our products have good working conditions and are treated with respect...”

A Uniqlo spokesperson said that no Uniqlo product is manufactured in the region and insists that all production partners in its supply chain uphold their codes of conduct on human and workers rights.

PVH Corporation [said] … it did not source finished garments from the region and would cease all business relationships with any factories and mills that produce garments or fabric, or use cotton grown, in Xinjiang within the next 12 months.

Adidas said it does not source goods from Xinjiang and have instructed its suppliers not to source yarn from the region.

A C&A spokesperson said it did not source from any manufacturers or work with any fabric or yarn mills in the region.

… [M]embers of the coalition said that it was not sufficient … to just sever direct relationships to suppliers but that a complete overhaul of the sector’s links to the region had to be undertaken.

Gap has been contacted for a response.