The forced labour of Uyghurs in China is continuing, including in Chinese companies selling apparel to big-name brands in Europe, a study commissioned by a group of EU lawmakers said on Wednesday, December 6.
“A substantial volume of apparel tainted by Uyghur forced labour is moving into the EU without restriction,” said the study published by the left-leaning Socialists and Democrats grouping in the European Parliament.
The report, relying on public sources and mapping of supply chains, said 39 clothing brands known in Europe were at “high risk of sourcing apparel made by Uyghurs compelled to participate in state-imposed labour transfers.”
Clothing companies such as Zara, Next and Prada were using at least four Chinese manufacturers that relied on forced Uyghur labour, it said.
The number of at-risk European companies “indicates that EU policy is not protecting its consumers from buying products made with Uyghur forced labour,” the study said.
Xinjiang, a region in north-west China where most of the country’s ethnic Uyghur minority live, accounts for more than 80% of China’s cotton. It is also a region where there are widespread reports of human rights abuses, including an estimated 1 million people who have been held in extrajudicial detention camps.
Apart from the detention camps, however, there is also a longstanding programme of state-sponsored labour transfers, which Uyghur activists and human rights campaigners say involve a high risk of coercion.