A man who was investigating poor working conditions at a Chinese factory producing shoes for Ivanka Trump’s personal brand has been arrested while two other investigators have reportedly gone missing.
Deng Guilian told the Associated Press that on Tuesday afternoon she received a call from police informing her that her husband, labor activist Hua Haifeng, had been detained on suspicion of “illegal surveillance.” The woman was told that she would not be able to speak with, see or receive money from her husband, leaving her worried and unsure what to tell their two children, apart from: “Papa was taken away by a monster.”
Hua was assisting China Labor Watch, a New York-based non-profit that was planning to run a report next month on low wages and excessive overtime at the factory. The group’s executive director, Li Qiang, said that over the weekend he had lost contact with Hua and two of his colleagues, Li Zhao and Su Heng. On Monday, Li received no reply from police about the whereabouts of the three men.
Li said that for nearly two decades his organization had conducted investigations into hundreds of factories which manufactured goods for some of the world’s most popular brand names, but never before had they encountered this level of scrutiny from authorities, adding that over the past few months the investigators had been blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong and told by police to stop looking into the factory.
“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation. But now it has become more political,” Li told the AP, adding that these kind of incidents were unprecedented and made him fear for the safety of his investigators.
“We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release our activists,” the group said in an email to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Ivanka Trump brand has declined to comment.
The three men were investigating a shoe factory in southern Jiangxi province owned by the Huajian Group, which produces 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes each year for Ivanka Trump’s brand (only a tiny portion of the 20 million pairs of shoes the brand produces a year), as well as supplying shoes for other international brands. While working undercover at the factory, investigators found evidence that workers were clocking 18-hour days and receiving a base salary that was below minimum wage.
Of course, these kind of findings are hardly unusual for Chinese factories. Last month, the Fair Labor Association published a report based on an independent audit of one Chinese factory last year that made clothing for Ivanka Trump’s brand which found some two-dozen violations of international labor standards, including that workers were getting paid just $1 an hour while working nearly 60 hours a week.
Despite her father’s creedo of “Buy American, Hire American” and threats against businesses that export their manufacturing jobs overseas, many of the products in Ivanka Trump’s personal collection were made in Chinese factories, including scarves that were recalled last year for being a fire hazard.
Now, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is calling for Ivanka Trump to cut ties with her brand’s Chinese supplier:
For years, Ivanka Trump has ignored public reports of awful labor conditions at a factory that makes her shoes. Now, she must decide whether she can ignore the Chinese government’s apparent attempt to silence an investigation into those worker abuses.
Ivanka’s brand should immediately cease its work with this supplier, and the Trump administration should reverse its current course and confront China on its human rights abuses.
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