China: Five audit firms to stop labour-audits in Xinjiang amidst concerns on restricted access
"Auditors to Stop Inspecting Factories in China’s Xinjiang Despite Forced-Labor Concerns", 21 September 2020
At least five organizations say they won’t help companies audit their supply chains in China’s Xinjiang region, where human rights activists say a police state atmosphere and government controls make it too difficult to determine whether factories and farms are relying on forced labor. [...] Western brands from Gap Inc. to Kraft Heinz Co. have come under increasing pressure to stop sourcing from Xinjiang, a major producer of cotton and tomatoes. [...]
To respond to the concerns, some Western brands have turned to outside companies or nonprofits to vet their suppliers. Human-rights and labor activists, however, argue that auditors risk becoming enablers that help brands justify sourcing in Xinjiang, and that, given the lack of access and heavy policing in the region, they can’t realistically carry out proper examinations of factories. Beijing has denied the existence of forced Uighur labor. [...]
Five organizations have told The Wall Street Journal they won’t provide labor-audit or inspection services in Xinjiang, including Bureau Veritas SA of France, TÜV SÜD AG of Germany, Sumerra LLC of the U.S., RINA SpA of Italy, as well as American nonprofit certification organization Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production. Three of the five—Bureau Veritas, TÜV SÜD and WRAP—have previously conducted or commissioned labor audits in the region.
Some groups the Journal contacted acknowledged the challenges of detecting forced labor in Xinjiang, but said they are concerned that blacklisting the region could push abuses further underground. [...]