Forced labour in China presents dilemmas for fashion brands

Some feel they are guilty until proven innocent

8/23/2020 8:48:00 AM

The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps provides the world with everything from cotton to tomatoes. America accuses it of using forced labour

Some feel they are guilty until proven innocent

XPCC), a nearly 3m-strong paramilitary-style business in western China. It was set up in 1954 to spur an influx of demobbed soldiers from the Han majority into an area dominated by Muslim Uighurs. It retains a militia of 100,000, charged with rooting out extremism. The militiamen and others help the

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XPCCfurnish the world with a panoply of goods. About 400,000XPCCfarmers harvest a third of China’s cotton. Others are part of Xinjiang’s tomato-exporting business. From pyjamas to passata,XPCCproducts penetrate global supply chains.America’s State Department says that it also uses forced labour. In late July the

USTreasury hitXPCCwith sanctions, alleging a connection with human-rights abuses in Xinjiang where at least 1m Uighurs and members of other ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. That followed a memo from President Donald Trump’s administration advising firms to sever any connection they may have with forced labour within and outside the autonomous region. Some retailers, such as

PVHCorp, whose brands include Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, publicly said they would cut ties with Xinjiang, out of concern for labour practices. Supply-chain auditors for Western makers of electronics and footwear say there are numerous “red flags” indicating Uighurs may have been forcibly transferred to factories in other Chinese regions.

Assessing the treatment of workers is nothing new for big firms sourcing materials from places of poverty and repression. But in China these problems are compounded by the power of the state, the size of the economy and tensions with America. At a time when covid-19 has forced many companies to consider reducing their Chinese supply chains, concerns over Uighur forced labour have added “gasoline to the fire”, says one executive.

Western firms thus face several conundrums. How can they prove that their supply chains are free of forced labour when auditing in Xinjiang is taboo? How do they respond to labour-rights worries publicly without enraging either Beijing or Washington? And how do they ensure that overzealous scrutiny of their workplaces does not make life even worse for Uighurs? These are moral, political and social questions that businesses feel they should not have to answer alone.

Start with traceability. Xinjiang is at the heart of China’s cotton, yarn and textile industry, the world’s biggest. The region supplies 84% of the country’s cotton. Its extra-long staple variety is coveted; it produces fabric that is whiter and less knotty than other sorts, making it a favourite for dress shirts sold around the world. It contains spinning factories belonging to some of China’s most advanced shirtmakers, under contract to Western brands.

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Until recently, when those brands fretted about labour conditions in Xinjiang, they sent auditors to inspect the factories. That stopped when they began to be monitored by Xinjiang authorities, “as if doing something wrong”, says one. Without audits, Xinjiang has become a black hole in the supply chain, making it almost impossible for Western firms to retain suppliers there. Furthermore, even outside Xinjiang, its cotton is a staple ingredient of Chinese yarn, where it may be mixed with other varieties, including imported stuff, and exported all over the world. Verifying the provenance of that cotton to show that none of it is from Xinjiang is “the hardest work we have ever done,” an auditor laments.

The second big problem is geopolitical. Navigating the Sino-American stand-off is getting tougher. Big international firms say that even if they reduce their dependence on supply chains within mainland China, they have no desire to pull out completely. But keeping Chinese factories, if only to supply domestic consumers, risks using tainted Xinjiang raw materials. And the Chinese government is so hostile to any criticism about human rights in Xinjiang, especially from outsiders, that Western firms must rely on Chinese suppliers to lobby on their behalf, a delicate endeavour.

In America, meanwhile, penalising the repression of Uighurs has bipartisan support that is unlikely to wane whoever wins the elections in November. But American brands feel that politicians have put them on the front line to safeguard human rights in China, without backup from Uncle Sam. They have little diplomatic support when negotiating with China, and the Twitter court of public opinion can be harsh. As one aggrieved executive puts it: “It is like the old witching days. The bar of guilt is incredibly low. The bar of innocence is extremely high.” It is easy to point fingers.

All of this leaves global firms feeling ultra-cautious—and poses a final dilemma. Averting a backlash from activists (and, potentially, consumers) requires removing Uighur employees from supply chains simply because it is so hard to prove whether they were coerced or not. Ultimately, it may necessitate breaking ties with Chinese suppliers with any links to Xinjiang—ie, most of them—even if a relationship of trust goes back decades. That can end up hurting the Uighurs, whom Western firms would gladly offer decent jobs, directly or indirectly.

A stitch in timeTextile firms believe technology may provide an answer. Pilot programmes exist to testDNAand other things to verify the source of cotton in yarn and fabric. Patricia Jurewicz of the Responsible Sourcing Network, anNGO, says fashion brands are studying how tech firms like Apple responded to a part of America’s Dodd Frank Act of 2010 to ensure no conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo entered their supply chains.

Of course aT-shirt is cheaper than a smartphone, and traceability costs money. The ideal solution would be for the Chinese government to stop persecuting its Muslim minority. As a businessman notes, the irony is that the more heavy-handed its tactics in Xinjiang are in an attempt to preserve stability, the more economically unstable the region risks becoming.

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amyfung75914102 It’s the key It's a choice between conscience and evil FreeUyghurs In all totalitarian regimes included the religious and ideological systems everybody is guilty and no one has the right to prove his or her innocence! Dilemma is not really the correct word here. shiroihamusan They don's treat ppl as human being.😡 And most chi nese are likely living here and say that no UyghurGenocide is happening. They believe that freedom is given by CCP. That is definitely going against the free world.

This is not called dilemma, the correct word is greediness Where is forced labour coming from? I feel there may be a connection between expecting these humans to have a conscience on the high seas when the world has very limited conscience relative to their lives...sad...seashepherd IvankaTrump had human rights observers arrested at one of her factories, no dilemma here the myth that the west cares about workers

So no one ever doubt the credibility of US intelligence? They told you China held 1m Muslims in camps and no one doubted how is it possible for Xinjiang to dramatically lower its criminal rates while detains 1/24 of its population? At least 1/8 population involved no way The evidence shows America has a massive captive workforce.

Forced labor in China should present dilemmas for everyone. Period. Forced labor of inmates as firefighters in California. What stark violation of basic human rights! All economies are built on forced labor. What do you call taxation then? 30% forced labor. No it doesn't. Another Anti China theme! We just want peaceful development. Why is it so difficult? Forced labor?! We should say! Enough! We are a developing country, everyone should try his best to contribute his power !! We love our country!!

Many international fashion and sports brands are hypocritical! While they support BlackLivesMatter , Uyghur lives mean nothing to them. Sham on them for endorsing forced labours and having double standards. On December 20, another great disaster is coming upon the world. Will people forget the corona virus? The worst disaster will be in India. The United States and Europe are severely affected. Chinese experts - important video

I also heard blood diamond. Since when moral and common sense is a dilema? The privileged fashionistas have no idea of the 'blood fashion' they are peddling. We all have bought into fashion brands, so we're all responsible. Don't buy them, simple. What ever happened to MADE IN THE USA? It's not difficult, it's impossible.

It’s alright, the public won’t care as long as these brands put on LGBT/BLM flags on their social media every few months. Can you help me with my needs? Komünizmi Kapitalistler getirecekler insanları köle gibi çalıştırmak için Once again, how can Satan cast out Satan ? then what's prison labor i'm confused?

Haha love it “dilemmas” 😂 Xitler ethnic cleansing concentration camps w/tortured & sterilized Uyghur present a slight “dilemma” Well many of the major American companies are shifting their businesses from China to outside China. But we should not forget, China has been a hub for American production for decades just because of the cheap labour which it now calls 'forced'.

Do you tell any truths? y_kitman Anyone should not be a Salve (=forced labour), our human right value should not be collapsed by money 💰. Let’s change the world from errors & greedy. If one is in denying, he will never see the truth. CCP is violating human rights in so many ways and not only in HK or XinJiang, yet the rest of the world has chosen money over moral standard and turning a blind eye to all evidences.

China is the most violent murderer and dictator in the world. Please stop China dictatorship CCP_is_terrorist boycottChina crystalhk06 经济学人 The world should boycott china for real. Uyghurs Lives matter. china Maybe we consumer dona aware of the origin of the raw material make those product in the past, but from today on, BoycottMadeInChina is a must!!

Dilemmas? Is a little less profit or a slightly higher price really a dilemma? Did you mean to say decisions? They do both start with a D. It's the time choose to upholding universal values and preserves the freedom, or to be the accomplice of evil dictator to ruin the human civilization Uyghurs works,but what have they rewarded after all? Genocide Just BoycottMadeInChina and voice for them

LunWong8 Let's face it the majority of the world's corporations, including the 'woke', would be quite happy using Nazi concentration camp labor if they thought they could get away with it. 💩 That’s unethical to use forced labour. Hope the free world will concern about the human rights issues in Xinjiang! Free nations must work together to stop ccp’s human rights abuses. standwithuyghurs

I don't want to use the resources obtained through the exploitation of Xinjiang people. Xinjiang people are not slaves😤 Here is an article on how to help Xinjiang people. Please share🙂👋 These companies know they are using slaves, but they are love money too much to be a person with morals SaveUighur

一群撕逼,从来没有去新疆看过,经济学人这群垃圾编辑天天拉的屎你们倒是吃的香呢。 How is this debatable by any means? They should be working towards cutting all ties as soon as possible, forced labor is not okay no matter how you put it. You should never think twice about doing the right thing because money is on the line. Human rights come first.

Forced labor in China? Get me Ivanka on line 2—NOW!! In addition to the victims who whistleblows CCP's misinformation, world must keep an eyes on the evidences how CCP's China detention camp as Hilter's Nazi did in WW2 Trump voters need no proof of anything. 'Economist' editorial department They are using Uighers the indegenous people as reported in the news The world 🌎 should condemn that plus stop using their products

西方媒体这种报道总是歪曲事实 Recent research shows that CCP is now exporting the Xinjiang’s ‘reeducation camps’ to factories across China, Consumers & global brands must stop employing these red-handed, national subsidies factories & their products, It is making money from enslavement indeed.. Ablers and enablers Is this text a true version of that reality or more one chapter from the war between China and USA? I hope be the second option. 😢

Are you serious? A Country serves for Capitalist know how to protect labour more, hm? 他们少数人曾经发动暴动杀害群众,中国为他们提供工作,比复仇,要好,要正确的多。人民只有生活好了,就不会去从事极端的事情。 我相信,这里面所谓的强迫,应该是指给与职业教育培训吧?我也不相信这个可以是强迫进行的,这个和集中营是一样的吗?一个例子,你们哪个不是通过义务教育毕业出来的,法律可是强迫家长必须把孩子送到学些的,难道你们说义务教育也是强迫的,难道公司都不要招聘这样强迫教育出来的人,不是一样的道理吗 你们这些假新闻记者们,难道不是每天在忍受自己主管老板的压迫和强制劳动吗?你们每天说假话,相信不是出于个人信仰,而是被迫的吧???相比美国911后到处反恐战争杀戮,难道给与他们工作机会通过劳动获取美好生活,最终脱离极端思想,这样的解决方案很好,不仅中国人支持,新疆人也支持。

These companies know they are using slaves, but they are love money too much to be a person with morals It’s called slavery. Stop dressing it up. The quakers began movement against slave trade in London more than 300 years ago. Perhaps there are men and women of principle in UK who could be as effective against forced labor in China today. BBCWorld ReutersWorld amnesty BBCNews thetimes JustinWelby britishparlimen

Why are we importing goods made in concentration camps. America has more experience when it comes to forced labor. Pay wall click bate - but both use forced labour, in US 'fire-fighting corps made up of prisoners', plus police and military clothing, equipment, so much more. China does it at greater scale due to population and more commercial...then debate of how both side create prisoners!!

So, you're saying all our minds being redirected by force of United States' righteous indignation at forced labor isn't causing a need of forced labor? So, no 1's ever fueled anti-nationalist sentiment against other nations using Artificially Intelligent Press before have they?! America has been making rumors about China,even some Chinese believe it yet.

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