British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) on Wednesday became one of the first major brands to back a drive to stop forced labor in cotton and garment sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region.
M&S signed a call to action by The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region — consisting of more than 300 civil society groups — to cut ties with suppliers in China that profit from the forced labor of the ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims.
“This is in line with the company’s long-term focus on ensuring its supply chains are sustainable and ethical, where workers are treated fairly, and their human rights are respected,” the company said on its Web site.
The UN estimates China has detained at least 1 million Uighurs and other minorities in camps in Xinjiang, where many of them are said to be put to work in textile factories.
US think tank the Center for Global Policy has said at least 570,000 people were forced to pick cotton by hand under a labor program targeting ethnic minority groups in the region.
China has denied mistreatment and said the camps offer vocational training and help to fight terrorism and extremism.
M&S said it did not work with any supplier in or source from Xinjiang, but publicly supported the call to action to “help play its part in driving meaningful change at scale.”
Xinjiang, home to about 11 million ethnic Uighurs, produces about 85 percent of China’s cotton and 20 percent of the global supply, which is used by fashion brands worldwide.
“When it comes to sustainable and ethical clothing, we can only achieve real change at scale by working with others,” M&S Clothing & Home managing director Richard Price said.
Anti-slavery organizations welcomed the announcement by M&S and urged other global retailers to follow suit.
Some brands have privately backed the appeal and should soon go public with their support, said Chloe Cranston, business and human rights manager at Anti-Slavery International.
“Other big companies are close to committing, and we hope M&S’ public statement will push them over the line,” she said.
While most brands say they do not have relationships with factories in Xinjiang, their supply chains are likely tainted by cotton picked by Uighurs that is exported across China and used by other suppliers, campaigners and researchers have said.
Several clothing giants, from Gap to Zara owner Inditex, said last year that they did not source from Xinjiang, but could not confirm their operations were free of cotton from the area.
Anti-Slavery International and the French labor rights coalition Collectif Ethique sur l’etiquette have urged governments to make companies liable for abuses in their supply chains, saying well-meaning words fell short of action.
Additional reporting by AFP
A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece — a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life. Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, said that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as
‘GRAVE CONCERN’: A critic of the government died immediately following his complaints of torture at the hands of security forces, a human rights group said Students on Friday clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, as anger mounted at the death of a writer and government critic in a high-security jail. At least 18 police and an unknown number of protesters were injured in the clashes, authorities and witnesses said, amid international demands for an independent investigation into the death of Mushtaq Ahmed. An Agence France-Presse correspondent witnessed police using batons and firing tear gas at students who staged a torchlight march calling for “justice” near the University of Dhaka. At least six students who allegedly attacked security forces with torches were detained, police said. More protests were planned
DMZ SWIM: Over more than three hours, South Korean surveillance cameras caught him eight times and audible alarms sounded twice, but border guards did not notice A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world’s most fortified borders and was only caught after apparently falling asleep, a Seoul official said. South Korean forces did not spot the man’s audacious exploit, despite his appearance several times on surveillance cameras after he landed and triggered alarms, drawing heavy criticism from media and opposition lawmakers. Even after his presence was noticed, the man — who used diving gear to make his way by sea around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula — was not caught for another
China, under growing global pressure over its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is mounting an unprecedented and aggressive campaign to push back, including explicit attacks on women who have made claims of abuse. As allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang mount, with a growing number of Western lawmakers accusing China of genocide, Beijing is focusing on discrediting the female Uighur witnesses behind reports of abuse. Chinese officials have named women, disclosed medical data and information on their fertility, and accused some of having affairs and one of having a sexually transmitted disease. Officials said that the information was evidence of bad character,