Rights Group complains about German retailers over Chinese textiles


Berlin-Human rights groups complained to German prosecutors on Monday alleging that several fashion retailers benefited from the forced labor system in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The Berlin-based European Constitution Rights Center (ECCHR) said Lidl, Hugo Boss, and other retailers were directly or indirectly from forced labor in Xinjiang’s cotton industry, according to a 96-page complaint received by prosecutors. In a federal court in Karlsruhe accusing them of betting and profiting.

China has denied Western accusations of abusing or forced labor in the minority Uighur Muslims of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Berlin could not get immediate comment.

“It is unacceptable for the European government to criticize China for human rights abuses, but European companies may benefit from the exploitation of Uighurs,” said Miriam, Head of Business and Human Rights Program at ECCHR. Sage Mars said.

“It’s time for the person in charge of the company to be held liable if the suspicion of forced labor is confirmed.”

The filing aims to convince prosecutors to initiate an investigation, and the author states that retailers’ management can be sought to explain and make customers more aware of supply chain abuse. increase.

A Lidl spokeswoman said the allegations related to the company were “based on an old supplier list and related to past orders or time periods.” The company has a “zero tolerance” policy for forced labor and child labor, requiring contractors along the supply chain to comply with social standards.

“If we become aware of any specific facts about a breach of these provisions, we will investigate and take appropriate action. In this regard, the production facility has been closed,” a Lidl spokeswoman said. increase.

A spokesperson for Hugo Boss said: “We assume that our values ​​and standards are adhered to in the manufacture of our products and that there are no legal violations. Therefore, we reject any other claims made by ECCHR.”

“We do not tolerate any form of forced labor or any form of modern slavery,” said a spokesman, ensuring that contractors adhere to human rights and fair working conditions along the supply chain. He added that it was necessary.

The United Nations quotes that it is a credible report that one million Muslims in the camp have come to work in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. China initially denied the existence of a camp, but later said it was a vocational training center designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all the people in the camp had “graduated.”

In July, French prosecutors began investigating four fashion retailers suspected of concealing crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, sources said. The case involved Japan’s Fast Retailing Uniqlo France unit, Zara’s owner Inditex, France’s SMCP, and Skechers shoes.

In January, the United States announced a ban on all cotton and tomato products from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on the grounds that it was manufactured using forced labor by Uighurs.

Several Western brands, including H & M, Burberry and Nike, have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after expressing concern about alleged forced labor in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. China accounts for about 20% of the world’s cotton market, and 85% of the cotton comes from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

By Michael Nienaber