France Probes Fashion Retailers For Concealing "Crimes Against Humanity" In China

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Jul 03, 2021 - 07:35 AM

The government of France has opened an investigation into several fashion giants suspected of profiting off of Muslim Uyghur labor in China's Xinjiang region, including specific efforts of concealing "crimes against humanity."

French prosecutors are probing four companies, identified by French media website Mediapart as Uniqlo France, a unit of Japan's Fast Retailing, Zara owner Inditex, France's SMCP and Skechers.

The investigation will examine allegations the fashion retailers profited off of forced labor, which has been for years documented as part of Chinese communist authorities' network of 're-education camps'. "An investigation has been opened by the crimes against humanity unit within the antiterrorism prosecutor's office following the filing of a complaint," a source privy to the probe was cited in AFP as saying. 

Among the French NGO's who initiated the lawsuit take up by the prosecutor's office further said, "Multinationals must not profit, with impunity, from the forced labour of Uyghurs."

While Beijing officials have in the past admitted to running 'rehabilitation' camps to "combat extremism" and what they alternately call job training sites, the US has long condemned the Uyghurs prisons, which are also widely believed to be massive forced labor camps. China has long denied these charges, instead accusing the West of meddling in its affairs and fabricating allegations. 

So far the companies issuing public statement have strongly rejected the accusations, also vowing to fully cooperate with any investigation while noting "rigorous" traceability and sourcing controls in place:

Fast Retailing said in a statement from Tokyo that it had not been contacted by French authorities and that none of its production partners are located in Xinjiang.

"If and when notified, we will cooperate fully with the investigation to reaffirm there is no forced labour in our supply chains," it said.

Meanwhile there remains the likelihood of significant negative repercussions for French companies in China on the mere basis of the government opening the probe.

As Reuters notes, "Several Western brands including H&M, Burberry and Nike have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after raising concerns about reports of forced labour in Xinjiang."