The American Apparel & Footwear Association wants answers.
Following “deeply concerning” reports that forced labor has now become an integral part of the Chinese government’s efforts to “reeducate” Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, the trade body urged Beijing to take necessary action.
China is the largest manufacturer of apparel in the world and the AAFA stressed that the supply chain underlying this relationship must operate in conformance with all local, national, and international laws, regulations, and standards.
“Forced labor in any form is unacceptable — our industry does not tolerate forced labor in our supply chains. Indeed, it is a top priority of our industry to ensure that all workers in our supply chains — regardless of the country or region where we operate — work under safe, ethical and humane conditions,” it said.
“In the interest of our mutually beneficial trade relationship, and to quickly address this evolving challenge, we respectfully ask the Chinese government to facilitate all due diligence measures to assure a clear understanding of the facts and that necessary actions are being taken to protect workers from forced labor,” it added.
The AAFA has been working closely with its members to educate them with available information about labor practices in Xinjiang province so they can conduct the necessary due diligence to ensure that products are not made with, or use components that were touched by, forced labor.
The organization’s comments followed the release of the study “Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang: Forced Labor, Forced Assimilation, and Western Supply Chains” by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The report claims that the Chinese government has detained and “reeducated” more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang in an effort to fully secure and control the population there.
“Forced labor has now become an integral part of the government’s efforts to “reeducate” Muslim minorities. This forced labor is connected to Western supply chains and consumers, as Xinjiang produces over 80 percent of China’s cotton,” the report contends.
“The United States in turn imports more than 30 percent of its apparel from China. This report focuses on what we know about forced labor in Xinjiang and how it connects to Western supply chains. It also identifies actions that are most likely to improve the situation,” the study adds.