WUC Joins 180+ Organization to Demand Apparel Brands to End Complicity in Uyghur Forced Labour

Press Release– For immediate release
23 July 2020
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
 www.uyghurcongress.org
+49 89 5432 1999 or
 [email protected]

Today, 72 Uyghur rights groups are joined by over 100 civil society organisations and labour unions from around the world in calling on apparel brands and retailers to stop using forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Uyghur Region”), known to local people as East Turkistan, and end their complicity in the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. [Visit the Coalition End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region’s website here.] The groups have issued a call to action seeking brand commitments to cut all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labour and end all sourcing from the Uyghur Region, from cotton to finished garments, within twelve months. 

“Now is the time for real action from brands, governments and international bodies – not empty declarations. To end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uyghurs, 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,” said Jasmine O’Connor OBE, CEO of Anti-Slavery International. 

The Chinese government has rounded up an estimated 1 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people in detention and forced-labour camps, the largest interment of an ethnic and religious minority since World War II. The atrocities in the Uyghur Region – including torture, forced separation of families, and the compulsory sterilisation of Uyghur women – are widely recognised to be crimes against humanity. A central element of the government’s strategy to dominate the Uyghur people is a vast system of forced labour, affecting factories and farms across the region and China, both inside and beyond the internment camps. 

Gulzira Auelkhan, a Kazakh woman who was formerly detained in an internment camp and then subjected to forced labour in a factory said: “The clothes factory was no different from the [internment] camp. There were police, cameras, you couldn’t go anywhere.” 

Despite global outrage at the abuses, leading apparel brands are bolstering and benefiting from the government’s assault on the peoples of the region. Brands continue to source millions of tons of cotton and yarn from the Uyghur Region. Roughly 1 in 5 cotton garments sold globally contains cotton and/or yarn from the Uyghur Region; it is virtually certain that many of these goods are tainted with forced labour. Moreover, apparel brands maintain lucrative partnerships with Chinese corporations implicated in forced labour, including those that benefit from the forced labour transfer of victims from the Uyghur Region to work in factories across China. 

“Global brands need to ask themselves how comfortable they are contributing to a genocidal policy against the Uyghur people. These companies have somehow managed to avoid scrutiny for complicity in that very policy – this stops today,” said Omer Kanat, Executive Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. 

The supply chains of most major apparel brands and retailers are tainted by Uyghur 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. 

“Forced labourers in the Uyghur Region face vicious retaliation if they tell the truth about their circumstances. This makes due diligence through labour inspections impossible and virtually guarantees that any brand sourcing from the Uyghur Region is using forced labour,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium. 

“Given the lack of leverage and the inability to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts, apparel brands and retailers must take the necessary steps to end business relationships connected to the Uyghur Region in order to fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” said David Schilling, Senior Program Director of Human Rights at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. 

“If responsible business conduct has any meaning, it requires fashion brands to act when independent journalists, United Nations human rights experts, and human rights NGOs expose grave human rights abuses,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum. “Business and human rights principles require fashion brands to stop using cotton and labour from the Uyghur Region in their global supply chains.” 

*** 

Media Contacts: 

Peter Irwin, Uyghur Human Rights Project (Washington, DC): +1 (646) 906-7722, [email protected] 

Penelope Kyritsis, Worker Rights Consortium (Washington, DC): +1 (401) 209-5917, [email protected] 

Chloe Cranston, Anti-Slavery International (London): +44 7789 936 383, [email protected] 

Johnson Yeung, Clean Clothes Campaign (Hong Kong): +852 6124 5154, [email protected] 

Nazly Sobhi Damasio, Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum, +1 (312) 687-8360, [email protected] 

*** More information: 

Groups are seeking the following commitments from bands and retailers: 

  • Stop sourcing cotton, yarn, textiles, and finished products from the Uyghur Region. Since cotton and yarn from the region is used to make textiles and finished goods across China and in 

numerous other countries, this requires brands to direct all factories that supply them with textiles and finished goods not to use cotton or yarn from the Uyghur region. 

  • Cut ties with companies implicated in forced labour – those that have operations in the Uyghur region and have accepted government subsidies and/or government-supplied labour at these operations. Examples include: Hong Kong-based Esquel Group and Chinese companies based outside of the Uyghur Region, such as Huafu Fashion Co., Lu Thai Textile Co., Jinsheng Group (parent company of Litai Textiles/Xingshi), Youngor Group, and Shandong Ruyi Technology Group Co. 
  • Prohibit any supplier factories located outside of the Uyghur Region from using Uyghurs or Turkic or Muslim workers supplied through the Chinese government’s forced labour transfer scheme. 
  • Note: Taking the actions listed above does not preclude brands from sourcing clothing from elsewhere in China, as long as cotton or yarn from the Uyghur Region is not used to make the clothing and as long as suppliers are not using forced Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim labour. 

Virtually the entire apparel industry is tainted by forced Uyghur and Turkic Muslim labour. Credible investigations and reports by the Associated Press, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Axios, Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Global Legal Action Network, and the Wall Street Journal have linked the following apparel brands and retailers to specific cases of Uyghur forced labour: 

  • Abercrombie & Fitch 
  • adidas 
  • Amazon 
  • Badger Sport (Founder Sport Group) 
  • C&A (Cofra Holding AG) 
  • Calvin Klein (PVH) 
  • Carter’s 
  • Cerruti 1881 (Trinity Limited) 
  • Costco 
  • Cotton On 
  • Dangerfield (Factory X Pty Ltd) 
  • Esprit (Esprit Holdings Ltd.) 
  • Fila (FILA KOREA Ltd) 
  • Gap 
  • H&M 
  • Hart Schaffner Marx (Authentic Brands Group) 
  • Ikea (Inter IKEA Systems B.V.) 
  • Jack & Jones (Bestseller) 
  • Jeanswest (Harbour Guidance Pty Ltd) 
  • L.L.Bean 
  • Lacoste (Maus Freres) 
  • Li-Ning 
  • Marks & Spencer 
  • Mayor 
  • Muji (Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd.) 
  • Nike 
  • Patagonia 
  • Polo Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Corporation) 
  • Puma 
  • Skechers 
  • Summit Resource International (Caterpillar) 
  • Target Australia (Wesfarmers) 
  • Tommy Hilfiger (PVH) 
  • Uniqlo (Fast Retailing) 
  • Victoria’s Secret (L Brands) 
  • Woolworths (Woolworth Corporation, LLC.) 
  • Zara (Inditex) 
  • Zegna 

*** 

About the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region: 

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan. 

The coalition is calling on leading brands and retailers to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labour of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government. Right now, there is near certainty that any brand sourcing apparel, textiles, yarn or cotton from the Uyghur Region is profiting from human rights violations, including forced labour, both in the Uyghur Region and more broadly throughout China. 

We are asking brands and retailers to exit the Uyghur Region at every level of their supply chain, from cotton to finished products, to prevent the use of forced labour of Uyghurs and other groups in other facilities, and to end relationships with suppliers supporting the forced labour system. Brands and retailers must take each of these steps in order to fulfil their corporate responsibility obligations to respect human rights as defined in international principles such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

The coalition urges national governments to strengthen and enforce existing laws prohibiting trade in goods produced using forced labour, and to adopt and implement binding laws requiring human rights due diligence in supply chains. The coalition is further committed to working with multilateral 

organisations like the ILO and OECD to use their mechanisms to end forced labour in the Uyghur Region as well as forced labour and human trafficking of people from these communities. 

We call on governments, MSIs, brands, and other stakeholders to join us in challenging this abusive system and together build the economic and political pressure on the Chinese government to end forced labour in the Uyghur Region. 

*** 

Endorsers of the Call to Action: 

  1. ABVV-FGTB (General Labour Federation of Belgium) 2. achACT (Actions Consumers Workers) 3. ACV-CSC (Confederation of Christian Trade Unions) 4. ACV-CSC METEA (Metal and Textile Industries Trade Union) 5. Advocates for Public Interest Law 6. AFL-CIO 7. Alberta Uyghur Association 8. altraQualità 9. Anti-Slavery International 10. Arisa Foundation 11. Arise Foundation 12. Arzu Uigurischer Kuturverein e.V. (Azru Uyghur Cultural Association) 13. Asian Solidarity Council for Freedom and Democracy 14. Association des Ouïghours de France (Association of French Uyghurs) 15. Athenai Institute 16. Australia Tibet Council 17. Australian Council of Trade Unions 18. Australian East Turkestan Association 19. Australian Uyghur Association 20. Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association 21. Austria Uyghur Association 22. Azzad Asset Management 23. Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers’ Federation 24. Belgium Uyghur Association 25. Bishkek Human Rights Committee 26. Campagna Abiti Puliti 27. Campaign for Uyghurs 28. Canada East Turkestan Union 29. Central Eurasian Studies Society 30. China Aid Association 31. China Labor Watch 32. China Labour Bulletin 
  2. Christian Solidarity Worldwide 34. Citizen Power Initiatives for China 35. Clean Clothes Campaign 36. Collectif Ethique sur l’étiquette 37. Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet (Tibet Support Committee) 38. CORE Coalition 39. Corporate Accountability Lab 40. Covenants Watch 41. Dabindu Collective 42. Daniye Uyghur Jama’itining Wekili (Denmark Uyghur Association) 43. Doğu Türkistan Basin ve Medya Derneği (East Turkistan Press and Media Association) 44. Doğu Türkistan Gençlik Derneği (East Turkistan Youth Association) 45. Doğu Türkistan Kültür Merkezi Duisburg (East Turkistan Cultural Center Duisburg) 46. Doğu Türkistan Maarif ve Dayanimsa Derneği (East Turkistan Education and Solidarity 

Association) 47. Doğu Türkistan Muhacirlar Derneği (East Turkistan Immigrants Association) 48. Doğu Türkistan Nuzugum Kültür ve Aile Derneği (Nuzugum Culture and Family Centre) 49. Doğu Türkistan Spor ve Gelişim Derneği (East Turkistan Sports and Development 

Association) 50. Doğu Türkistan Yeni Nesil Hareketi Derneği (East Turkistan New Generation Movement) 51. Dutch Uyghur Human Rights Foundation 52. Dutch Uyghur, Tibet, Mongol People Cooperation Organization 53. East Turkestan Union in Europe 54. East Turkistan Art & Science Institute 55. East Turkistan Association of Canada 56. East Turkistan Cultural and Solidarity Association 57. East Turkistan Foundation 58. East Turkistan Human Rights Watch Association 59. East Turkistan Information Center 60. East Turkistan National Council 61. East Turkistan Union in Europe 62. Eastern Turkistan Uyghur Association in the Netherlands 63. FAIR (Fair Trade Cooperative) 64. Fair Action 65. Fashion Roundtable 66. FGTB – CG (General Union Belgium) 67. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights ) 68. Formosan Association for Public Affairs 69. FOS (Solidarity for the socialist movement in Flanders) 70. Free Tibet 71. Freedom Fund 

  1. Freedom United 73. Garment Labour Union 74. Gender Alliance for Development Center 75. Global Aktion 76. Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women 77. Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum 78. Global Legal Action Network 79. God Bless HK 80. Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete (Tibet Support Group) 81. H&M Hong Kong Staff Union 82. Hong Kong Global Connect 83. HOPE not hate 84. Human Rights in China 85. Human Rights Now 86. Human Rights Watch 87. Humanity Beyond Borders 88. Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility 89. International Campaign for Tibet 90. International Commission of Jurists 91. International Dalit Solidarity Network 92. International Service for Human Rights 93. International Trade Union Confederation 94. Isa Yusuf Alptekin Foundation 95. Islamic Information & Services Foundation 96. Ittipak Uyghur Society of the Kyrgyz Republic 97. Japan Uyghur Association 98. Japan Uyghur Union 99. Jewish World Watch 100. Justice For All 101. Kazakhstan National Culture Center 102. Keep Taiwan Free 103. Korean House for International Solidarity 104. Labour Behind the Label 105. Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice 106. Malaysia Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations 107. Maquila Solidarity Network 108. Mavi Hilal 109. Minaret Foundation 110. Movimento Consumatori (Consumer Movement) 111. Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken (Network for Conscious Consumption) 112. Norwegian Uyghur Committee (NUK) 
  2. Open Gate La Strada Macedonia 114. Pakistan Ömer Uyghur Foundation 115. Peace Catalyst International 116. Public Citizen 117. Qutatqu Bilik Institute 118. Rafto Foundation for Human Rights 119. Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association 120. Religious Freedom Institute 121. René Cassin 122. Responsible Sourcing Network 123. Robert F Kennedy Human Rights 124. Satuq Bughrahan Science and Culture Center 125. SAVE (Social Awareness and Voluntary Education) 126. Save Tibet 127. Science, Education and Research Foundation 128. SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research & Education) 129. Shukr Foundation 130. Society for Threatened Peoples 131. Society Union of Uyghur National Association 132. Solidarity China 133. Stand with Hong Kong 134. Stefanus Alliance International 135. STOP THE TRAFFIK 136. Südwind 137. SÜDWIND-Institut 138. Suomen Ita Turkestan Yhdistys (Finland East Turkistan Association) 139. Sweden East Turkistan Education Association 140. Sweden Mahmut Kashgeri Mother Tongue School 141. Sweden Uyghur Education Association 142. T’ruah 143. Taiwan Association for Human Rights 144. Taklimakan Islamiska Kultur Center 145. TERRE DES FEMMES Schweiz 146. The Rights Practice 147. Tibet Justice Center 148. Tibet Support Group 149. Tibetan Youth Association in Europe 150. Trades Union Congress 151. Uighur U.K. Association 152. Uigurischer Veren Schweiz (Swiss Uyghur Association) 153. Uiguriska Utbildingsföreningen (Uyghur Education Association) 
  3. UK Uyghur Community 155. United Students Against Sweatshops 156. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization 157. Unseen UK 158. US Tibet Committee 159. Uyghur Academy 160. Uyghur Academy America 161. Uyghur Academy Australia 162. Uyghur Academy Europe 163. Uyghur Aid 164. Uyghur American Association 165. Uyghur Association of Victoria 166. Uyghur Collective 167. Uyghur Democracy and Human Rights Center 168. Uyghur Forum 169. Uyghur Human Rights Project 170. Uyghur Media Center 171. Uyghur Mothers’ Union in Germany 172. Uyghur Radio TV 173. Uyghur Rally 174. Uyghur Relief Fund 175. Uyghur Research Institute 176. Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project 177. Uyghur Solidarity Campaign 178. Uyghur Support Group Netherlands 179. Uyghur Transitional Justice Database 180. Uyghur Youth Union in Kazakhstan 181. Uzbekistan Uyghur Culture Center 182. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation 183. Victoria Hong Kong Tertiary Student Association 184. Walk Free 185. We Social Movements 186. Worker Rights Consortium 187. World Uyghur Congress.