Human Rights Watchdog Probes Zara’s Alleged Use of Uyghur Forced Labour in China

A Canadian human rights watchdog has issued an initial assessment report regarding Zara Canada's supply chain associations with Chinese firms accused of using forced labour from the Uyghur community in China.The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) said its investigation is a result of complaints filed by a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations in June 2022. These complainants alleged that Zara Canada, dating back to before May 1, 2019, has been implicated in the use of forced labour from Uyghurs through its suppliers: Huafu Top Dyed Melange Yarn Co. Ltd., Shandong Zoucheng Guosheng, and Xinjiang Zhongtai Group.The ombudsperson noted that Zara Canada has denied the allegations and has suggested that the complaint is inadmissible because the alleged human rights violations are not directly related to its operations. According to the report, Zara Canada has also declined to participate in mediation, reiterating its position that the complaint is inadmissible in a Jan. 16 letter to CORE.The complainants also mentioned that in December 2021, Zara’s parent company, Inditex, stated that it did not have commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang. The complainants believe that findings by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute directly contradict statements from Zara (and its parent company Inditex) that it did not have commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang. The complainants assert that this means that Zara has not addressed, nor intends to address, its connections with the Chinese entities.The Epoch Times reached out to Zara Canada for comment, but didn't hear back immediately. Chinese Companies The three Chinese companies referenced in the CORE report have been identified as using or benefiting from forced labour. To support their allegations, the complainants have cited reports conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in March 2020 and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice (HKCIJ) in June 2022.According to the ASPI report, Huafu Top Dyed Melange Yarn was one of 15 factories that received a percentage of the 2,048 Uyghur labourers who were taken from Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang to Anhui Province. Notably, the ASPI report says Zara is one of "Huafu’s long term customers," citing a Chinese media source.Related StoriesAccording to the CORE report, the complainants have raised concerns about "a high risk" of Uyghur forced labour used at Xinjiang Zhongtai Group. Citing the HKCIJ study, the complainants noted that one of the company's subsidiaries, Aral Fulida, is reportedly a supply chain partner of Zara. The CORE pointed out that in a letter to Zara in November 2021, the complainants requested Zara to ensure, "beyond a reasonable doubt," that it does not benefit from Uyghur forced labour and to conduct due diligence to verify the absence of Uyghur forced labour in their operations.In December 2021, Inditex responded by stating that it had no commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang and regarded the legal complaints against it in France over forced labour as "completely unfounded." Other Minority Groups Zara Canada is not the only company that has been accused of being complicit in the use of forced labour that exploits minority groups in China.The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, which is among the 28 complainants, released a report in November 2020. In the report, the group named Adidas, Nike, and Amazon as among a number of Western brands that benefit from the use of Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang.The report highlighted that elsewhere throughout China, other ethnic and religious minorities such as Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, and Christians are also being held in labour camps.

Human Rights Watchdog Probes Zara’s Alleged Use of Uyghur Forced Labour in China
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A Canadian human rights watchdog has issued an initial assessment report regarding Zara Canada's supply chain associations with Chinese firms accused of using forced labour from the Uyghur community in China.

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) said its investigation is a result of complaints filed by a coalition of 28 Canadian organizations in June 2022. These complainants alleged that Zara Canada, dating back to before May 1, 2019, has been implicated in the use of forced labour from Uyghurs through its suppliers: Huafu Top Dyed Melange Yarn Co. Ltd., Shandong Zoucheng Guosheng, and Xinjiang Zhongtai Group.

The ombudsperson noted that Zara Canada has denied the allegations and has suggested that the complaint is inadmissible because the alleged human rights violations are not directly related to its operations. According to the report, Zara Canada has also declined to participate in mediation, reiterating its position that the complaint is inadmissible in a Jan. 16 letter to CORE.

The complainants also mentioned that in December 2021, Zara’s parent company, Inditex, stated that it did not have commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang. The complainants believe that findings by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute directly contradict statements from Zara (and its parent company Inditex) that it did not have commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang. The complainants assert that this means that Zara has not addressed, nor intends to address, its connections with the Chinese entities.

The Epoch Times reached out to Zara Canada for comment, but didn't hear back immediately.
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Chinese Companies

The three Chinese companies referenced in the CORE report have been identified as using or benefiting from forced labour. To support their allegations, the complainants have cited reports conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in March 2020 and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice (HKCIJ) in June 2022.

According to the ASPI report, Huafu Top Dyed Melange Yarn was one of 15 factories that received a percentage of the 2,048 Uyghur labourers who were taken from Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang to Anhui Province. Notably, the ASPI report says Zara is one of "Huafu’s long term customers," citing a Chinese media source.

According to the CORE report, the complainants have raised concerns about "a high risk" of Uyghur forced labour used at Xinjiang Zhongtai Group. Citing the HKCIJ study, the complainants noted that one of the company's subsidiaries, Aral Fulida, is reportedly a supply chain partner of Zara. The CORE pointed out that in a letter to Zara in November 2021, the complainants requested Zara to ensure, "beyond a reasonable doubt," that it does not benefit from Uyghur forced labour and to conduct due diligence to verify the absence of Uyghur forced labour in their operations.

In December 2021, Inditex responded by stating that it had no commercial relations with any factory in Xinjiang and regarded the legal complaints against it in France over forced labour as "completely unfounded."

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Other Minority Groups

Zara Canada is not the only company that has been accused of being complicit in the use of forced labour that exploits minority groups in China.

The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, which is among the 28 complainants, released a report in November 2020. In the report, the group named Adidas, Nike, and Amazon as among a number of Western brands that benefit from the use of Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang.

The report highlighted that elsewhere throughout China, other ethnic and religious minorities such as Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, and Christians are also being held in labour camps.