Updates on Forced Labor in the XUAR

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To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:March 10, 2020
Re:Updates on Forced Labor in the XUAR

I want to share several updates concerning forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region:

  1. Along with the leading independent researcher on human rights in the XUAR, Dr. Adrian Zenz, the WRC has sent a letter to leading social auditing firms and factory certification bodies urging them not to perform factory audits in the XUAR. Amidst massive human rights abuses and ubiquitous surveillance, reliable auditing in the XUAR is not possible. No worker can speak freely to an auditor; anyone contradicting the Chinese government’s position—that there is no forced labor—is at grave risk of violent reprisal. The only purpose audits can serve today in the XUAR is to create the false appearance of due diligence. In multiple cases, major brands have placed orders at factories using forced labor because of audit reports that gave the facility a clean bill of health, including the Hetian Taida company, which produced university logo goods for Badger Sport and baby pajamas for Costco. As you know, imports from the company have been banned by the US government. We will be reporting on the responses of the auditors and certifiers to our letter.
  2. The WRC recently uncovered another example of why it is important for auditing firms to stop providing unfounded labor rights assurances: we found a major non-collegiate apparel brand, Lacoste, producing goods at a factory using forced labor in the town of Yili in the XUAR. Researchers have documented egregious human rights abuses at this factory, based on refugee accounts. Lacoste sourced there anyway, relying on baseless assurances from a leading audit firm, Bureau Veritas. Lacoste stopped sourcing there after the WRC informed the company of the presence of forced labor. You can see press coverage here and here.
  3. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement on March 6 classifying the human rights abuses in the XUAR as “crimes against humanity”. This categorization is rarely used by human rights practitioners, and its application in this case underscores the gravity of events in the XUAR. In a statement, the Museum described “crimes against humanity” as “one of the most grave and serious crimes, inflicting severe harm upon entire communities, the trauma from which can last across generations.”

As you know, the WRC is completing analysis and consultations with key stakeholders and is finalizing guidance to university licensees on the steps needed to be in compliance with university labor standards prohibiting the use of forced labor—including concrete time-frames for removing XUAR-produced cotton, yarn, textiles, and garments from the university supply chain. We look forward to sharing this guidance with licensees and affiliate universities shortly.