Clothing manufactured by forced labour in a Chinese internment camp has been traced to a US sportswear brand.
According to the Associated Press, privately-owned company Hetian Taida apparel has a cluster of workshops within the compound walls of a Chinese internment camp.
Ongoing shipments of apparel from the company in Xinjiang have been tracked to US firm Badger Sports since April. Badger Sports provides sportswear to universities sports teams across the US.
The report documented poor working conditions of detainees at Hetian Taida’s factories, who have been shipping garments to Badger Sports. Hetian Taida has confirmed their workforce includes detainees but denied any affiliation with internment camps.
In a statement Badger Sports said: “We immediately suspended ordering product from Hetian Taida and its affiliates while an investigation is conducted. One percent or less of our products were sourced from Hetian Taida. We will not ship to customers any product in our possession from that facility.”
Under US and United Nations rules, forced labour is a type of modern slavery and items that are made by exploited workers are banned from import in the US.
While Badger Sports insists most of its apparel is manufactured in the US and Nicaragua, the report said that at least 10 shipping containers filled thousands of men’s, women’s and children’s polyester T-shirts and trousers were shipped from Xinjiang this year.
According to the report, this example is just one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government is forcing mainly Muslim detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries for little or no pay.
A re-education campaign was launched in Xinjiang in response to violence in the area. Chinese authorities insist the training centres offer free training for minorities to bring them into a “modern, civilised” world and eliminate poverty in Xinjiang. They say workers have signed agreements to receive vocational training.
The shipments to the US demonstrate how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labour from getting into the global supply chain, said the report.
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