A United States sportswear company has stopped using a Chinese supplier following concerns it was using forced labour in camps in northwestern China.
Badger Sportswear, a company based in North Carolina, said it would stop sourcing clothing from Hetian Taida in Xinjiang.
“Out of an abundance of caution and to eliminate any concerns about our supply chain given the controversy around doing business in Northwestern China, we will no longer source any product from Hetian Taida or this region of China,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.
Reports of gross human rights violations targeting the Uighur ethnic minority in China’s northwest, have leaked out in the past year.
Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to be held in “study camps” — extra-judicial detention centres set up in Xinjiang — according to estimates cited by an independent UN panel.
An article in the New York Times last month showed that Badger had received a container of T-shirts from Hetian Taida, a company in Xinjiang shown on state television to have been using workers from re-education camps holding Muslim minorities.
Independent investigators and a company investigation showed that Badger, which works with Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production — a nonprofit that issues social compliance certificates — had not violated its ethical manufacturing policy.
“However, historical documentation provided by Hetian Taida regarding their prior facility was insufficient to conclude with certainty that it had met Badger?s Global Sourcing Policy,” the company said.
China on Thursday cautioned foreign firms against making business decisions based on misinformation.
“If this company… decides to stop business and trade cooperation with its Chinese partners according to such wrong information, I think it is a tragedy for its business,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing.
China has already scrapped labour camps, he added, referring to the facilities in Xinjiang as “vocational education centres” that do not use forced labour.
China has long imposed draconian restrictions on the lives of Muslim minorities in the region in the name of combating terrorism and separatism.
But police measures have intensified in recent years, and activists say ethnic minorities can be detained for transgressions as minor has wearing long beards or face veils.