Brands’ supply chains ‘tainted’ by Uighur forced labour

23 July 2020

A coalition of over 180 organisations has urged global apparel brands to end all sourcing from the Uighur region in China within 12 months.

The coalition, which is made up of Uighur rights and civil society groups, accused brands of “bolstering and benefiting” from the forced labour of Uighur and other Muslim minorities in factories and farms in the Xinjiang region. 

The group called on apparel brands to cut ties with suppliers that have been implicated in false labour and to stop all sourcing from the region, from cotton to finished garments.

More than 80% of China’s cotton comes from the Xinjiang province, which is home around 11 million Uighurs. It is estimated that one in five cotton garments sold globally contains cotton or yarn from the region. 

Up to 1.8m Uighurs and other muslim minority people are believed to be in detention and forced-labour camps across the region. Chinese authorities insist the centres offer vocational training for minorities.

Brands including Adidas, Amazon, H&M, Nike and Uniqlo have all been linked to Uighur forced labour. Last year, Muji unveiled a collection of products made with cotton sourced from Xinjiang. 

“The supply chains of most major apparel brands and retailers are tainted by Uighur forced labour. Major corporations claim not to tolerate forced labour by their suppliers, but have offered no credible explanation as to how they can meet this standard while continuing to do business in a region where forced labour is rife,” the group said. 

Jasmine O’Connor, CEO of Anti-Slavery International, said: “Now is the time for real action from brands, governments and international bodies – not empty declarations. To end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim peoples by the Chinese government, brands must ensure their supply chains are not linked to the atrocities against these people.

“The only way brands can ensure they are not profiting from the exploitation is by exiting the region and ending relationships with suppliers propping up this Chinese government system.”

An Amazon spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate the use of forced labour. We regularly assess suppliers, using independent auditors as appropriate, to monitor continued compliance and improvement – if we find violations, we request immediate corrective action and take other appropriate steps.”

Earlier this month, the US imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials over the alleged human rights abuses. China said it would look to take “reciprocal measures”.

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