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Investigators of Ivanka Trump’s Shoe Manufacturer Likely Arrested

Amnesty International, on Wednesday called for China Labor Watch investigator Hua Haifeng’s release.

Published
World
3 min read
Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle brand imports most of its merchandise from China, trade data show. (Photo: AP)

The arrest and disappearance of three labour activists investigating a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump shoes in China prompted a call for her brand to stop working with the supplier and raised questions about whether the first family's commercial interests would muddy US leadership on human rights.

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. She (Ivanka Trump) must decide whether she can ignore the Chinese government’s apparent attempt to silence an investigation into those worker abuses.
Adrienne Watson, Spokeswoman, Democratic National Committee

Amnesty International, on Wednesday, called for the release of China Labor Watch investigator Hua Haifeng, as well as his two colleagues, who are feared to have been detained.

Perceived Threats to the Stability of China's Ruling Communist Party

The men were working with an American nonprofit group to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and possible misuse of student labour, according to China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang, who lost contact with the investigators over the weekend. The investigators also witnessed verbal abuse, with one manager insulting staff about poorly made shoes and making a crude reference in Chinese to female genitalia, according to Li.

China Labor Watch has been exposing poor working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies for nearly two decades, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus. 

The arrest and disappearances come amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China's ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch.

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An Unusual Target

Hua Haifeng has been arrested and another two have gone missing following their investigations into working conditions at a Chinese factory. (Photo: AP)
Hua Haifeng has been arrested and another two have gone missing following their investigations into working conditions at a Chinese factory. (Photo: AP)

China Labor Watch's investigation also had an unusual target: a brand owned by the daughter of US President Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump's lifestyle brand imports most of its merchandise from China, trade data show.

She and her father both have extensive trademark portfolios in China, though neither has managed to build up a large retail or real estate presence here. The sister of Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and husband of Ivanka, traveled to China this past month to court investment from Chinese families for a real estate project in New Jersey.

The eagerness of members of the family to do business in China while airbrushing very troubling human rights and labour rights records of the country is troubling.
Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director, Amnesty International

Bequelin added that:

It is only a matter of time before it is known to what extent business is trumping any kind of consideration of the diplomatic capital of the US in promoting human rights, labour rights and democracy.
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China Tightens Control Over Foreign NGOs

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump's brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment. Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter became a White House presidential adviser, has said the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to "comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions."

China tightened control over foreign NGOs starting this year by requiring them to register with state security. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing Wednesday that she was not aware of the arrest and disappearances. She said China welcomed international NGOs to carry out research, but added:

We also hope that NGOs can also observe Chinese laws and regulations and don’t engage in any illegal actions or behavior.
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Activist’s Wife Speaks Out

Li Zhao is one of three men involved in investigating working conditions at a Chinese factory. (Photo: AP)
Li Zhao is one of three men involved in investigating working conditions at a Chinese factory. (Photo: AP)

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her on Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn't need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family's breadwinner. The crime carries a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment.

Li said China Labor Watch asked police about Deng and the two other investigators, Li Zhao and Su Heng, on Monday but received no reply. AP was unable to reach the other investigators' families.

(This article has been edited for length.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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