On Monday, Sept. 6, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a criminal complaint against five major German brands for using Chinese slave labor in their production chain.
The ECCHR’s complaint alleges that luxury clothing brand Hugo Boss, supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi, and clothing stores C&A, among others, profit by using Uighur slave labor in the Xinjiang province.
According to DW, the criminal complaint results from an open investigation based on public information where the companies list their suppliers in Xinjiang.
Miriam Saage-Maass, director of ECCHR’s Business and Human Rights Program, said she believes these German companies could be just an indication of something much bigger.
“We do believe that those five are really only an example of a much wider and more systematic problem. It’s very likely that there are many more companies sourcing from the region,” activist Saage-Maass said.
Aldi Group said the allegations relate to one of its suppliers, Turpan Jinpin Knitting, from whom they stopped buying in 2019. Similarly, Lidl also claimed that after allegations of forced labor emerged last year, it stopped sourcing from some suppliers in the Xinjiang region.
The Hugo Boss firm denied its involvement in forced labor with a standard statement saying the company’s ‘values and standards were adhered to in the production of our goods and that there are no violations of the law.’
Saage-Maass criticized the double standards of the European Union that, on the one hand, the governments condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights violations, while behind the scenes, governments sign trade treaties with the regime that perpetuates these crimes.
“It is unacceptable that European governments criticize China on human rights violations, while European companies may be profiting from the exploitation of the Uyghur population. It is high time that those responsible in the companies are held accountable if suspicions of forced labour are confirmed,” said the ECCHR director.
In his last days as president, Donald Trump, with Mike Pompeo, declared that the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang counted as genocide, and the Biden administration has maintained this.
According to U.S. intelligence sources, at the time, the CCP held at least three million Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps, which the Chinese regime calls a ‘rehabilitation center’ where they say are used to ‘reform’ Muslim ‘potential terrorists.’
As early as March 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), an Australian think tank, published a detailed report on companies involved with the repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
The most well-known companies on the ASPI list are BMW, Apple, Lacoste, Nintendo, Nike, Sony, Samsung, and Google.
ASPI assures a vast amount of evidence exists that the CCP takes Uighurs from Xinjiang to factories across the country to subject them to long hours of work, without pay and without freedom of movement.
Notably, as pressure from the international community mounts, companies such as Nike, Adidas, and clothing chain H&M announced that they would stop buying cotton from Xinjiang, which consequently attracted a boycott within mainland China organized by the CCP.
Another major group denouncing similar abuses is Falun Dafa, a spiritual discipline from the Buddha School that the Chinese regime has persecuted since 1999.
Falun Dafa, which has an estimated 100 million adherents, has been denouncing for nearly two decades that practitioners are forced to manufacture export products such as stuffed animals, chopsticks, combs, mirrors, Christmas lights, etc.
Practitioners denounce that they are more than 18 hours a day in unhealthy conditions, that they have a quota to meet, and that otherwise, they are tortured, not allowed to sleep or go to the bathroom.
Many have died under such extreme conditions.
The website Minghui, which has dedicated itself to documenting the persecution, records almost 4700 deaths of practitioners in police custody.