Amazon, Nike, and IKEA questioned by MPs over alleged forced labour links

A supporters of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard reading 'Save Uighur' during a demonstration in front of China Consulate in Istanbul.Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty
A supporters of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard reading 'Save Uighur' during a demonstration in front of China Consulate in Istanbul.Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty

A number of high-profile companies, including Amazon, Adidas, The Walt Disney Company, Nike, and Ikea have received letters from MPs over alleged forced labour links.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee wrote to businesses across the fashion, retail and information technology sectors, as it explores the extent to which UK firms are exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.

It is believed that 1 million Uyghur are being held in internment camps in the northern Chinese province.

The letters include questions around supply-chain transparency, requesting compliance evidence and written feedback on how each company maintains visibility and combats modern slavery within their supply chains.

The BEIS Committee has written to the following companies: Adidas (ADS.DE), Amazon (AMZN), Boohoo Group (BOO.L), Gap (GPS), H&M, IKEA, Marks and Spencer (MKS.L), Nike (NKE), Puma (PUM.DE), Stella McCartney, The North Face, The Walt Disney Company (DIS), TikTok, Victoria’s Secret and Zara.

The committee’s request for information to these named businesses also includes an invitation to give evidence at the BEIS Committee public hearing on 5 November.

Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden and lead BEIS Committee member for the inquiry, said: “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s ‘Uyghur’s for Sale’ report names 82 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the exploitation of Uyghur workers in Xinjiang.

“On the BEIS Committee, we are determined to ask prominent businesses operating in Britain in these sectors what they are doing to ensure their profits are not on the back of forced labour in China.”

“These businesses are trusted by many British consumers and I hope they will repay this faith by coming forward to answer these questions and also take up the opportunity to give evidence to the Business Committee in public.”

Ghani added that there have been a series of accounts of products being sold in the UK which can be traced back to forced labour at camps in China.

READ MORE: Who are the Uighur people and why do they face oppression by China?

In January, a government trade minister held a one-on-one meeting with a facial recognition firm accused of enabling the Chinese government’s campaign of persecution against Uyghur Muslims, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed to the Guardian.

Graham Stuart, a minister at the Department for International Trade (DIT), met representatives from Hong Kong-based surveillance firm SenseTime, in June last year to discuss the use of artificial intelligence and data in higher education.

International brands were urged by campaigners in July to cut ties with suppliers “implicated in the forced labour” of the Uyghur people.

A spokesperson for Puma said that the company has no business relationship with Haoyuanpeng Clothing, one of the companies accused of engaging in forced labour in connection with Puma product.

They also added that Puma has no business relationships with manufacturers located in the Xinjiang region and has taken significant measures to ensure that there is no indirect involvement of Xinjiang labour in the manufacturing of its products.

“Once we became aware of the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), we immediately started investigations in our supply chain in China with regards to potential issues of forced labour. The investigations have revealed that the allegations concerning PUMA, as outlined in the “Uyghurs for Sale” report, are incorrect. PUMA is in no way engaged in forced labour,” they said.

A spokesman for IKEA said: “At IKEA we are committed to using 100% Cotton from More Sustainable Sources (CMSS) in all our products and productions since September 2015.

“The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is one of our approved schemes for CMSS and therefore historically we have been using BCI licensed cotton on a global scale including Xinjiang, China. However, since the harvest from the cotton season 2020-21 will not be approved by BCI, IKEA has taken the decision to stop sourcing cotton from Xinjiang, China.”

IKEA added that it will continue to work towards improving the cotton industry from within and “create a movement towards better cotton and better working conditions for those working in the industry.”

Yahoo Finance UK has contacted all other named businesses for comment.

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