US sportswear firm cuts ties with Chinese supplier over Muslim internment camps

Television footage on Chinese media shows Uyghur Muslim women working at a clothing factory at an internment camp in Hotan, Xinjiang. [Credit: AP]

An American sportswear company has cut ties with a Chinese supplier that sourced forced labour from an internment camp where Uyghur Muslims have been subject to horrific human rights abuse.

Badger Sportswear, which provides sports garments to university teams, said it would no longer import any products from north-western China “given the controversy” of the government’s religious persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

The sports outfit cancelled orders from Hetian Taida Apparel in December last year after an Associated Press investigation revealed that the Chinese supplier was operating a factory inside one of the re-education concentration camps where at least one millions Muslims have been forcibly detained.

Former inmates have said that they were subject to physical and psychological torture in being forced to renounce Islam, drink alcohol and consume pork, and pledging allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese government has also been forcing Muslim detainees to work in food and manufacturing factories, located either inside the camps or at privately owned, state-subsidised warehouses where they are sent after release.

The Associated Press traced shipments towards the end of last year from a factory inside a re-education camp in Xinjiang to Badger in Statesville, North Carolina.

Badger said in a statement posted on its website: “Upon hearing these press reports, we immediately suspended ordering, receiving or shipping any product from the supplier, Hetian Taida Apparel Co Ltd, and launched a multi-faceted investigation.

“This process included internal reviews and an investigation conducted by outside legal counsel working with a global forensic accounting firm.”

The American company also stated that documentation provided by Hetian Taida about its factory “was insufficient to conclude with certainty that it had met Badger’s Global Sourcing Policy”.

They added: “Therefore, out of an abundance of caution and to eliminate any concerns about our supply chain given the controversy around doing business in north-western China, we will no longer source any product from Hetian Taida or this region of China.

“Furthermore, we will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession.”

Merchandise supplied by the Chinese company amounted to around one per cent of Badger’s annual sales, the firm said.

Universities stocking Badger garments began removing items from their websites and shelves after their links to the concentration camps were exposed in December.

Academics and human rights experts told the UK Foreign Affairs Committee that the detention of millions of Uyghur and Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region was the worst human rights abuse in China since Chairman Mao’s era.

Amnesty International has likened the “vocational centres” to “wartime concentration camps”.

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