French prosecutors have launched an investigation into five major fashion concerns that may use cotton from China’s Xinjiang region. This came through the French news site Mediapart, and the news was confirmed by a legal source to Agence France-Presse. This will include Japanese brand Uniqlo and Inditex, the Spanish parent company of fashion chain Zara.
With the investigation launched at the end of June, the French public prosecutor is pursuing a complaint against Uniqlo France, Fast Retailing, Inditex (known for brands like Zara, Bershka and Massimo Duti), SMCP and sneaker manufacturer Skechers.
This complaint was filed in early April by activist groups, with a Uyghur woman who was in a Chinese punishment camp. The fashion companies are said to have used cotton from Xinjiang, and thus are accused of profiting from the forced labor of persecuted Uyghurs in China.
The fate of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority from China’s Xinjiang province, is the subject of rising tensions between the West and China.
Several countries, including Belgium and the United States, have used the term genocide and have accused China, among other things, of harboring more than one million Uyghurs in re-education camps since 2017. China insists they are “vocational training centres.” China is accused of making Uyghurs perform forced labor in cotton production in Xinjiang. Human rights activists and United Nations experts, among others, say the Muslim minority is also persecuted by torture, detention and forced sterilization.
Several companies, including H&M, Nike and Adidas, decided to boycott cotton production from Xinjiang.
Inditex denies it uses cotton from Xinjiang. Uniqlo announced last year that it would no longer buy cotton from that region due to human rights abuses. It came to the company – just like H&M, Nike and Adidas – fight in china to stand up. He also accused SMCP of having an interest in a company with factories in Xinjiang. It denies this and says it is cooperating with the investigation.
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