A coalition of labor unions and NGOs on Thursday urged clothing brands and retailers not to exploit labor from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China.
The organizations called on brands to stop sourcing from the Xinjiang region within 12 months.
“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,” Jasmine O’Connor, head of Anti-Slavery International, said in a statement.
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The Chinese government rounded up 1 to 1.8 million of people in detention and forced-labor camps committing crimes against humanity such as torture, forced separation of families and compulsory sterilization of women, NGOs wrote in a press release, saying that China was responsible of “the largest internment of an ethnic and religious minority since World War II.”
Nearly the whole apparel industry — including brands such as Adidas, H&M, Lacoste, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Zara — is linked to specific cases of forced labor in the region, the NGOs wrote, referring to investigation and reports by governmental agencies, news outlets, think tanks and associations.
According to the NGOs, approximately one fifth of all cotton garments sold in the world contains cotton or yarn from Xinjiang.
So far, the European Commission has not reacted to calls from the European Parliament to prevent imports into the EU of goods made with forced labor.
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