- The Associated Press reported last month that a Chinese clothing factory used cheap or free labor from people held in oppressive Chinese interment camps.
- Beijing has been criticized around the world for its treatment of the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who are intensively surveilled and frequently detained.
- Badger Sport, which makes team clothes for US universities like Texas A&M, cut ties with the Chinese factory after reports of its use of forced Uighur labor.
An American company severed its ties to a Chinese manufacturer that was reportedly making clothes using forced labor from an oppressed ethnic minority.
Badger Sport, a North Carolina firm that makes custom sportswear for institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M, ditched the supplier Hetian Taida Apparel this week.
Hetian Taida is a privately-owned company located inside an internment camp in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, the epicenter of China’s well-documented oppression of the Uighur minority.
Xinjiang is home to some 11 million Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority currently subjected to unprecedented and invasive surveillance techniques by the Chinese state. The region is also known as East Turkestan.
China justifies its crackdown as a counterterrorism measure. It has called the internment camps “free vocational training” where Uighurs “have realized that life can be so colorful.”
In a Wednesday statement on its website, Badger Sport said it will no longer work with Hetian Taida, nor import any products from Xinjiang.
It said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution and to eliminate any concerns about our supply chain given the controversy around doing business” in Xinjiang.
The company said it “will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession,” which it said previously accounted for about 1% of its total annual sales.
Badger Sport’s decision follows a December report from the Associated Press (AP) that Chinese authorities were forcing detained Uighurs to making clothes for Hetian Taida for little or no pay.
It did not say which items were made by these workers.
Universities stocking Badger Sport clothing also removed items from their online and physical stores in light of the AP report.
It appears to be a sign that that businesses are reacting to international pressure and reporting on the crackdown.
US bipartisan lawmakers introduced an act last month urging the White House to consider imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the Uighur crackdown, as well as banning exports of US technology that could be used to oppress Uighurs.
China’s foreign ministry told the AP that Badger Sport’s decision to cut ties with Hetian Taida was “a tragedy for its business.” It said that AP report on forced labor used “such wrong information.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs response to story above: pic.twitter.com/5SCr8zyH60
— Dake Kang 姜大翼 (@dakekang) January 10, 2019