Tuesday 31 January, 2023

Al-Estiklal Newspaper

This is How International Fashion Companies Colluded with China Against the Uyghurs

2021/12/06 08:12:00 |
"We wanted to send an alert by rejecting the expansion of stores that are not aware of the activities of their intermediary companies."
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The French newspaper, Le Point, has highlighted complaints and investigations of international textile and fashion companies accused of complicity with the Chinese authorities in forcing the Muslim Uyghur minority into forced labor.

It explained that a French investigation is currently underway into the process of "possible exploitation" of forced labor directed against the Uyghur minority by the great Spanish clothing Inditex.

In August 2019, the United Nations announced that China had detained about one million Uyghur Muslims in forced labor camps in Xinjiang.

Since 1949, Beijing has controlled the East Turkestan region, which is the homeland of the Muslim Uyghur Turks, and called it "Xinjiang," meaning "the new frontier."


Strict Rejection

As part of the investigation, the newspaper pointed out that the relevant French authorities rejected a request submitted by the Zara chain of the Inditex company, to expand one of its stores in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

The reason for the refusal is related to suspicions about Inditex, which may have used forced labor of Uyghurs in China and exploited them.

The investigation was launched at the end of June 2021 by the Crimes Against Humanity Division of the Counter-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office.

It was based on a complaint filed in April 2021 by the Sherpa Anti-Corruption Association, the Ethics Group, and the Uyghur Institute in Europe.

On November 9, 2021, the French committee specialized in examining Zara's request issued a decision to reject the request, with a majority of three votes against the request, one vote in favor, and six abstentions.

The three members who vetoed are the assistant environmental mayor of Bordeaux, an ecologist elected from the city, and a member of the Council of the New Aquitaine region.

The reason for their refusal was that there was an ongoing judicial investigation into the suspected exploitation of forced Uyghur labor in China by Inditex intermediaries to profit from its business.

"We wanted to send an alert by rejecting the expansion of stores that are not well informed about the activities of their intermediary companies," the newspaper quoted Alain Garnier, the capital's envoy on the matter, as saying.


Textile Giants

The ongoing investigation includes Uniqlo France, Japan's Fast Retailing, Inditex, which makes the Zara, Bershka, and Massimo Dutti brands, as well as SMCB, which makes Skechers sneakers.

The investigation focuses on the marketing of products manufactured in whole or in part in factories where Uyghurs are subjected to forced labour.

Uniqlo is particularly accused of providing textiles from Uyghur forced labor areas in China's Anhui province, where thousands of Uyghur workers have been relocated, possibly forcibly, according to Le Point.

As for the Skechers shoes, which are currently in France, they were manufactured according to the plaintiff NGOs, in a factory in the Chinese city of Guangdong, where it is likely that the Uyghurs were subjected to forced labor.

Sandrine Jaquet, in charge of shops in the municipality of Bordeaux, explained the commission's decision by saying that “with the rapid impact of fashion on the environment and the suspicion that the Uyghurs are being forced to work, it seemed to us that the Zara project did not respect the standards of sustainable development.”

Actually, these criteria are set by the French Trade Law, the Sectoral Committee for Trade Development, which issued the decision.

"It is now up to Zara to appeal this decision to the committee to explain how the company meets these criteria," according to the capital's envoy, Garnier.


Human Rights Movement

This comes in light of European human rights movements led by activists, the most recent of which was their announcement in the field of human rights on September 6, 2021, to file a complaint in Germany against several international companies, accusing them of “profiting” from forced labor suffered by the Uyghur minority in China.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Berlin-based non-governmental organization, also announced that it had filed a complaint against several German companies for "complicity in crimes against humanity, directly or indirectly, by taking advantage of the forced labor of the Uyghur minority in China."

Meanwhile, Miriam Saage-Maass, director of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, explained that these companies targeted by the complaint had "publicly and voluntarily declared" that they had supply factories in the areas of Uyghur presence.

In 2020, many international textile companies, such as Japanese Uniqlo, Sweden's H&M, America's Nike, and Adidas, pledged to boycott cotton from Xinjiang, the hometown of the Uyghurs.

In this context, Myriam Sage said, however, that "we believe that these companies are just one example of a larger and more systemic problem."





Forced labor of Uyghurs: a sanctioned Zara store [French]