Sun, Jan 28, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Chinese mom pays probe into Ivanka Trump

AP, XIANGYANG, China

Chinese labor activist Hua Haifeng watches as his daughter walks through the gates of her school on the outskirts of Xiangyang in central China’s Hubei Province on Dec. 18 last year.

Photo: AP

With two young children, Deng Guimian had not planned on going back to work. That changed after her husband was arrested while investigating labor abuses at Chinese suppliers for the brand of Ivanka Trump, US President Donald Trump’s daughter.

Now the 36-year-old mom works the overnight shift at a karaoke parlor and stays in a dorm nearby. She gets just three days off a month to see her kids.

“They seem accustomed to not having their mom,” Deng said of her seven-year-old daughter, Chen Chen, and four-year-old son, Bo Bo.

She flashed an uneasy smile.

Ivanka Trump has sought to bring an aura of female empowerment to her lifestyle brand and spoken out for women’s rights from her post at the White House, but her legacy has been less than empowering for at least one woman in China.

In May, Deng’s husband, Hua Haifeng, and two of his colleagues were accused of illegally using secret recording devices and thrown in jail while investigating factories that made shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand. The group that they were working for, a New York non-profit called China Labor Watch, obtained evidence of forced overtime and pay as low as US$1 an hour, as well as a video of a manager berating a worker for apparently arranging shoes in the wrong order.

“If I see them f---ing messed up again,” the manager yells, “I’ll beat you right here.”

Another worker was left with blood dripping from his head after a manager hit him with the sharp end of a high heeled shoe, three eyewitnesses said.

The Huajian Group, which runs the factories where the abuses allegedly occurred, has called the charges “completely not true to the facts.”

The investigators were released after 30 days, but the bail conditions — restrictions on travel, regular meetings with the police — have made it difficult for Hua to find work.

Hua was ordered not to speak to the media and declined to comment for this story.

Ivanka Trump, who still owns but no longer closely manages her namesake brand, has remained silent about human rights issues within her brand’s supply chain — and labor conditions in China, where tons of her products are made and a generation of women like Deng has left their children to go work.

“As a public figure, she has the ability and resources to not only work on labor conditions at her own brand’s factories, but also to help improve labor conditions of the global supply chain as a whole,” China Labor Watch founder Li Qiang said. “However, she did not use her influence to do these things.”

Trump’s brand and spokesman declined to comment for this story, but in her bestseller, **Women Who Work**, Trump spoke about her commitment to improving “the lives of countless women and girls” and acknowledged that her father’s presidential campaign gave her “an unprecedented opportunity to advocate for change.”

Her daughter, Arabella, who is one year younger than Chen Chen, has also been an inspiration.

“When I think about the opportunities Arabella will have available to her in the United States, compared with some of the 600 million girls growing up in developing countries, I’m even more inspired to make a difference,” she wrote.

Arabella and her two little brothers are her “greatest passion,” Ivanka Trump wrote. “I’m the first person they see in the morning and the last to give kisses at night.”

Meanwhile, Deng has traded life with her kids for a mirrored room at a karaoke parlor, where she sells drinks and snacks on the 6pm to 2am shift. She spends her days in a dormitory, where she and a coworker share a bed with a Snoopy headboard. Room and board are free, but she makes less than 2,000 yuan (US$317) a month. It is not enough.

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