The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded a uniform contract for the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to a Chinese textile company that has an affiliated factory in Xinjiang and that openly advertises its use of cotton from Xinjiang.
Because it is important: The opacity of supply chains in China means that it can be difficult to determine whether goods are made through forced labor.
- The company told the IOC that the cotton used in the Olympic uniforms is not sourced from Xinjiang.
Details: The IOC announced in September 2019 that the Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX) would supply formal uniforms, such as those used in ceremonies, for IOC members and staff.
- HYX Group has a long-standing relationship with the Chinese Olympic Committee and was a sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
- In listings on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and JD.com, the company advertises numerous products containing cotton from Xinjiang.
- HYX Group oversees a consortium of franchise factories. One of these factories is located in Xinjiang, according to the company’s website.
Background: Supply chains in China (and elsewhere) are often opaque, making it difficult to trace products made with forced labor.
- The Better Cotton Initiative, an international cotton sustainability organization, announced in October 2020 that it would withdraw from Xinjiang after determining that there was no way to participate ethically there.
“The Olympics should not have association with corporations producing in the Uyghur region. Partnering with a company that not only sources from the Uyghur Region, but brags about it in advertising its products is morally reprehensible, “said Penelope Kyritsis, director of strategic research at the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group, after reviewing information about HYX Group.
- “At a time when the world is realizing the horrors that are taking place in the Uyghur region, the IOC seems to be turning a blind eye,” Kyritsis said.
What they are saying: An IOC spokesperson told Axios that the HYX Group provided the IOC with a certificate of origin for the cotton used in the production of the IOC uniforms and that the certificate indicated that the cotton originated outside of China.
- The spokesperson did not say which body had issued the certificate and did not provide a copy of the certificate at Axios’ request.
- “Given the diverse participation in the Olympics, the IOC must remain neutral on all global political issues,” the IOC said in a statement sent to Axios.
- While the IOC is committed to defending human rights, “it does not have the mandate or the ability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country,” the statement said.
The controversy surrounding Xinjiang is not new to the IOC. In December, a coalition representing ethnic minorities in China said in an open letter that the IOC has “turned a blind eye to the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the Chinese authorities.”
- The IOC has maintained that it organizes sporting events and is not responsible for national policies, reports AP.
HYX did not respond to various emails and phone calls, and messages sent to his official Taobao store were not answered.
Chinese companies often advertise that your products are made with Cotton from Xinjiang, known for its high quality. In the past, international retailers like Japanese clothing retailers Muji and Uniqlo did as well.
- But Xinjiang cotton has become increasingly controversial, both in China and abroad, as evidence has emerged that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs may be working under coercive conditions in the Xinjiang cotton industry amid a broader campaign of forced assimilation.
- In January, the United States banned the import of all cotton products made in Xinjiang, citing allegations of forced labor.
- In March, Chinese social media users criticized H&M, Nike, and other major global brands for their earlier statements disavowing the use of Xinjiang cotton, and H&M stores were removed from Baidu maps and trading platforms. e-commerce, forcing companies to choose between pleasing the Chinese authorities. and consumers or answering global calls to stop sourcing from Xinjiang.