A company in North Carolina that sells sports gear to youth and adult athletes is severing ties with a Chinese manufacturer over charges it uses Muslim detainees as labor.
Less than a month after it was reported that Badger Sportswear's supplier in China, Hetian Taida Apparel Co., was making its garments at an internment camp in the western part of China, the company announced it will no longer work with the factory.
"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," Badger said in a statement.
"However, historical documentation provided by Hetian Taida regarding their prior facility [in the Xinjiang region] was insufficient to conclude with certainty that it had met Badger's Global Sourcing Policy.
"Therefore, 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."
An Associated Press investigation found that detained Muslims are put into forced labor to work in factories in China's Xinjiang region. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the claim, but the AP talked with several people who said the practice is ongoing.
A dozen people who either had been in a camp or had friends or family in one told the AP that detainees they knew were given no choice but to work at the factories. Most of the Uighurs and Kazakhs, who were interviewed in exile, also said that even people with professional jobs were retrained to do menial work.
Payment varied according to the factory. Some got paid nothing, while others earned up to several hundred dollars a month, they said — barely above minimum wage for the poorer parts of Xinjiang. A person with firsthand knowledge of the situation in one county estimated that more than 10,000 detainees — or 10 to 20 percent of the internment population there — are working in factories, with some earning just a tenth of what they used to earn before. The person declined to be named out of fear of retribution.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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