NGOs file complaint in France against clothing firms over Uighur labour

Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - An NGO alliance has called in France for an investigation of four multinational clothing manufacturers, accusing them of profiting from forced labour of the Uighur minority in China, they said on Friday (April 9).

The complaint targets the clothing giants Inditex, Uniqlo and SMCP, as well as footwear manufacturer Skechers, which it charged concealed forced labour and crimes against humanity in the production of the goods.

The complaint was filed by anti-corruption group Sherpa; the Ethique NGO, which is the French branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign; and the Uighur Institute of Europe, as well as an Uighur woman who had been held in a camp in Xinjiang in China.

In a statement, the non-government organisations said the complaint aimed to furnish the French authorities with evidence that the companies were implicated in the forced labour that they said Uighurs have been subjected to in the China camps.

It "denounces the impunity of these actors in the face of violations committed within the context of economic globalisation", they said.

They accused the four companies, as well as other entities, of continuing to market goods using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region and of thus being "complicit in the serious crimes committed there".

The statement said the complaint was the first in a number of such petitions that would be filed in European countries in the months ahead.

Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

The United States says "genocide" has been inflicted on the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region, while Beijing has denied all allegations of abuses and has insisted its policies in Xinjiang are necessary to counter violent extremism.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.