Companies sourcing goods from China are running the risk of using forced Uyghur labour in their supply chains, according to a report.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute study has identified 27 plants in nine provinces of China where Uyghur Muslims work in forced labour conditions to supply major Western companies.
The report alleged the network of factories supply at least 83 global brands including Nike and Apple.
Brands should be aware that if they are sourcing from factories identified in the report they could be in breach of laws that prohibit the use of forced labour or mandate its disclosure.
“The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections,” said the report.
“It is vital that through this process, affected workers are not exposed to any further harm, including involuntary transfers.”
One of the report’s case studies alleged that a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for Nike was equipped with watchtowers, barbed-wire fences and police guard boxes.
It said that Uyghur workers were unable to go home for holidays.
In another eastern province factory claiming to supply Adidas, Uyghur workers were transferred directly from one of the Xinjiang province’s re-education camps.
The report claimed to provide evidence of “the involvement of foreign and Chinese companies, possibly unknowingly, in human rights abuses”.
“Foreign governments, businesses and civil society groups should identify opportunities to increase pressure on the Chinese government to end the use of Uyghur forced labour and extrajudicial detentions,” it said.
Meanwhile it also called for consumers and consumer advocacy groups to demand that companies that manufacture in China conduct human rights due diligence on their supply chains.
This was in order to ensure that they uphold basic human rights and are not complicit in any coercive labour schemes.
In the report Adidas had denied having a direct relationship with the supplier listed in the report and said it was investigating the use of its brand name and logo.
Apple said it had not seen the study but added it worked with its suppliers to “ensure our high standards are upheld”.
Nike said that it was “strictly prohibited from using any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labour”.
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