Swedish clothing company H&M said Tuesday that it is severing ties with Chinese yarn producer Huafu Fashion over accusations that the supplier uses “forced labor” of ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang province of China.
H&M admitted that the company had an “indirect business relationship with one mill” owned by Huafu Fashion in Shangyu in the province of Zhejiang.
“While there are no indications for forced labor in the Shangyu mill, we have decided to, until we get more clarity around allegations of forced labor, phase out our indirect business relationship with Huafu Fashion Co, regardless of unit and province, within the next 12 months,” H&M said.
The clothing giant added that it has never done business with another Huafu factory in the Chinese province of Anhui. A March report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute claimed that H&M benefited from forced labor at the Anhui factory.
The company also promised to no longer source cotton from Xinjiang and said it launched “an inquiry at all the garment manufacturing factories we work with in China aiming to ensure that they are not employing workers … through what is reported on as labor transfer programs or employment schemes where forced labor is an increased risk.”
The Chinese government has detained since 2017 an estimated one million if not more Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in “re-education camps” around Xinjiang, which are designed to instill a sense of loyalty to the government and erase the culture attachments of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Around 80,000 Uyghurs have been forced to work in factories, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated.
China claims that the detention camps are for voluntary education and training and are used to combat extremism, but Chinese government documents leaked last year detail how the facilities are run with extreme control over their residents.