Badger Sportswear Traced to Factory in China's Mass Internment Camps

By Kang, Dake; Mendoza, Martha et al. | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), December 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

Badger Sportswear Traced to Factory in China's Mass Internment Camps


Kang, Dake, Mendoza, Martha, Wang, Yanan, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


HOTAN, China - Chinese men and women locked in a mass detention camp where authorities are "re-educating ethnic minorities are sewing clothes that have been imported all year by a U.S. sportswear company.

The camp, in Hotan, China, is one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are detained, forced to give up their language and their religion and subject to political indoctrination. Now, the Chinese government is also forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. Some of them are within the internment camps; others are privately-owned, state-subsidized factories where detainees are sent once they are released.

The Associated Press has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory - Hetian Taida Apparel - inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. Badger's clothes are sold on college campuses and to sports teams across the country, although there is no way to tell where any particular shirt made in Xinjiang ends up.

The shipments show how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labor from getting into the global supply chain, even though such imports are illegal in the U.S. Badger CEO John Anton said Sunday that the company would halt shipments while it investigates.

Hetian Taida's chairman Wu Hongbo confirmed that the company has a factory inside a re-education compound, and said they provide employment to those trainees who were deemed by the government to be "unproblematic.

"We're making our contribution to eradicating poverty, Wu told the AP over the phone.

Chinese authorities say the camps offer free vocational training for Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities, mostly Muslims, as part of a plan to bring them into "a modern civilized world and eliminate poverty in the region. They say that people in the centers have signed agreements to receive vocational training.

The Xinjiang Propaganda Department did not respond to a faxed request for comment. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused the foreign media Monday of making "many untrue reports about the training centers, but did not specify when asked for details.

"Those reports are completely based on hearsay evidence or made out of thin air, the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said at a daily briefing.

However, a dozen people who either had been in a camp or had friends or family in one told the AP that detainees they knew were given no choice but to work at the factories. Most of the Uighurs and Kazakhs, who were interviewed in exile, also said that even people with professional jobs were retrained to do menial work.

Payment varied according to the factory. Some got paid nothing, while others earned up to several hundred dollars a month, they said - barely above minimum wage for the poorer parts of Xinjiang. …

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