JUSTICE

NGOs file French complaint against fashion retailers over forced Uyghur labour

Customers shop in the Paris flagship Uniqlo fashion-store.
Customers shop in the Paris flagship Uniqlo fashion-store. © Reuters/ Charles Platiau

An alliance of NGOs has called for an investigation in France of four multinational clothing manufacturers, accusing them of profiting from forced labour of China's Uyghur minority.

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Clothing giants Inditex, Uniqlo, SMCP and footwear manufacturer Skechers are said to be concealing forced labour and crimes against humanity in the production of their goods.

The complaint was filed by anti-corruption group Sherpa, the NGO Ethique (the French branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign), the Uyghur Institute of Europe and a Uyghur woman who had been held in a camp in Xinjiang.

In a statement, the NGOs said they aimed to provide the French authorities with evidence that the companies were implicated in the forced labour being endured by Uyghurs in Chinese detention camps.

The complaint denounced the "impunity of these actors in the face of violations committed within the context of economic globalisation".

The four companies, along with other entities, are accused of continuing to market goods using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region and, therefore, of being "complicit in the serious crimes committed there".

The statement said the complaint was the first in a number of such petitions that would be filed in European countries in the coming months.

Rights groups say at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been put in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

The United States says "genocide" has been inflicted on the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region, while Beijing has denied all allegations of abuses. It says its policies in Xinjiang are necessary to counter violent extremism.

In late March, Beijing removed products by Swedish clothing manufacturer H&M from its Taobao online platform, after it raised concerns about forced labour in Xinjiang and announced it would no longer source its cotton there.

(with AFP)

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