X
Breaking

US clothing company cuts ties with Chinese factory that reportedly used forced labor to make college sportswear

Business Insider | Jan 11, 2019, 05.50PM IST

Xinjiang

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A Uighur man adjusts his traditional hat, a doppa, at a teahouse in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in July 2017. China reportedly forced interned Uighurs to make clothes for little to no pay for a factory.

  • 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 xinjiang hetian taida factory

Ng Han Guan/AP

The entrance of the "Hotan City apparel employment training base," where Hetian Taida has a factory, in Xinjiang, pictured in December 2018. US company Badger Sport severed ties with the factory this week.

Beijing is accused of detaining up to 1 million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps, relying on flimsy excuses for doing so.

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."

Activists have found evidence of Chinese authorities tracking Uighurs' cellphone activity. Beijing has also invested billions of yuan into covering Xinjiang with facial recognition cameras.

Read more: Shocking footage purportedly shows cells inside prison camp where China oppresses Muslim minority

xinjiang camp yingye'er

Bitter Winter/YouTube

Beijing is accused of interning up to 1 million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps. Here, footage purportedly of a re-education camp in Yingye'er, Xinjiang, taken in August 2018.

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.

uighur

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China is facing more and more scrutiny over its treatment of the Uighurs.

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."

NOW WATCH: MSNBC host Chris Hayes thinks President Trump's stance on China is 'not at all crazy'

Add Comment
Keep scrolling for next story

Federal employees say they're getting second jobs, including driving for Uber, to cope with the joint-longest shutdown in US history

Loading next story
Copyright © 2015 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.
All rights reserved.