Cotton On, Target Australia Stopped Sourcing Cotton From China’s Xinjiang After Forced Labor Allegations

October 18, 2019 Updated: October 30, 2019

Two companies, Cotton On and Target Australia, have reportedly stopped sourcing cotton from China’s Xinjiang after an investigation by an Australian TV program reported that Uyghur Muslims were being forced to work in a number of textile factories in the region.

“Four Corners,” by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), revealed in July that certain brands of clothing sold in Australia—including Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Dangerfield, Ikea, and H&M—were sourcing cotton from Xinjiang, and that “mounting evidence” points to a system of forced labor in the region.

The ABC reported in July that Cotton On and Target Australia were investigating their relationships with their suppliers in Xinjiang, and that as of Oct. 17, Cotton On had completed its internal investigation.

According to the ABC, Cotton On said it no longer sourced from Xinjiang-based subcontractor Litai Textiles. Cotton On also said that it is “absolutely committed to having an ethical supply chain.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to Cotton On for comment.

Target Australia said it has “made the decision to stop orders” from a mill owned by the company Huafu in Xinjiang, the network reported. An internal investigation is being conducted into supplies sourced from the mill.

A Target spokesperson said the company has a strict ethical sourcing code.

“As part of our Ethical Sourcing Code of Conduct Target Australia take any breaches of this Code very seriously, this includes any allegations of forced labour,” a Target spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“Following the recent reports regarding the Huafu Mill in Xinjiang we identified that one Target direct supplier is using a small amount of cotton yarn from a mill owned by Huafu in Xinjiang province. Target asked the supplier to stop orders from this mill while the situation is clarified.”

Meanwhile, H&M informed Four Corners that their investigations into the company Huafu, one of their suppliers, “showed no evidence of forced labour.” H&M also said that the yarn sourced from Huafu comes from a facility outside Xinjiang.

Jeanswest said that an internal investigation after the Four Corners report yielded “no evidence that any of our cotton comes from this region,” reported the ABC.

Amnesty International campaigner Ruse Kulak said in a statement on Oct. 17: “Amnesty welcomes this move by Cotton On and Target to stop sourcing cotton from Xinjiang. We know there are terrible human rights violations occurring for the million Uyghur people currently interred there in political ‘re-education’ camps where forced labour is a common practice.

“Australians care about human rights and do not want to aid practices like forced labour when they buy a new t-shirt.

“Clearly, the risk is too great for these companies to be associated with the oppression of the Uyghur people. We call on all Australian companies to make transparent their supply chains to ensure consumers do not unwittingly support gross human rights abuses of Uyghur people.”

China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills. The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained.

The Associated Press reported in early October that the Trump Administration was blocking shipments from a Chinese company producing baby pajamas following allegations that people making such items—Uyghurs suspected to be among them—may be subjected to forced labor.

“[I]f we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves,” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said at the time.

The United States also in early October imposed visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials it believes are responsible for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

The U.S. Commerce Department also added 28 Chinese public security bureaus and companies on a U.S. trade blacklist over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other Muslim ethnic minorities.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Target Australia.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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