A U.S. supplier of T-shirts and other team apparel to college bookstores has cut ties with a Chinese company that drew workers from an internment camp holding targeted members of ethnic minority groups.
In recent years, authorities in the far west Chinese region of Xinjiang have detained an estimated 1 million Uighurs and Kazakhs in heavily-secured facilities where detainees say they are ordered to renounce their language and religion while pledging loyalty to the China's ruling Communist Party.
Last month, an Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government had also started forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. The investigation tracked recent shipments from one such factory, the privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, located inside an internment camp, to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina.
In a statement posted to its
"Furthermore, we will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession," the company said, adding that the supplier accounted for about 1
Repeated calls to Hetian Taida's chairman, Wu Hongbo, rang unanswered Wednesday. In a previous conversation with the AP, Wu said while Hetian Taida was located in the same compound as one camp that the government calls a "vocational skills education and training
However, Wu said his company employed 20 to 30 "trainees" from the
Asked about the case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday that while the ministry doesn't generally comment on individual business decisions, Badger appeared to have been acting on "misinformation."
The vocational training
"It's a tragedy for that business," Lu said.
Universities stocking Badger clothing began pulling items from their shelves and
Hetian Taida was certified as complying with good business practices by Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, which sent an auditor to a different Hetian Taida facility, not the one inside the internment camp. That factory "is not engaged in the use of forced
WRAP spokesman Seth Lennon confirmed to AP that the facility they investigated is not the same place AP wrote about.
The Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), which has agreements with many educational institutions across the U.S. to ensure the products they sell on campus are ethically manufactured, conducted its own investigation and found additional evidence confirming the factory supplying Badger was inside an internment camp.
WRC executive director Scott Nova said Wednesday's announcement reinforces that finding.
"There is nothing in Badger's statement, or WRAP's, that calls into question the conclusion that Hetian Taida used detainee
Any item that is the product of forced
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
Martha Mendoza And Yanan Wang, The Associated Press