Global fashion brands are being urged to stop sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region due the “grave risk of forced labour”.
A coalition of nearly 200 human rights groups has called on brands to examine their Chinese supply chains amid global pressure on Beijing over its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority.
More than 80% of China’s cotton comes from northwestern Xinjiang, which is home to about 11 million Uighurs. The coalition is asking that brands cut any ties with suppliers in China that “benefit from the forced labour of the ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups”.
The United Nations estimates that at least one million Uighurs and other muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China has, however, denied mistreatment and said the camps China camps offer vocational training and help to fight terrorism.
Most fashion brands do not source directly from factories in Xinjiang however the coalition says its supply chains are likely to be “tainted” by cotton from the area.
“Now is the time for real action from brands, governments and international bodies – not empty declarations. To end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uighurs, 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 US has already hit Chinese officials with sanctions over the treatment of the Uighurs and other minority groups, including the Kazakhs, while Britain and France has condemned the Chinese government over the matter. The Chinese ambassador to the UK has denied there is any mistreatment of the Uighur people.