US Lawmakers Seek Proof From Olympic Committee That Uniforms Will Not Be Made Using Forced Labor

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
January 13, 2022 Updated: January 15, 2022

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for assurances that uniforms for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Games aren’t made using forced labor, according to a Jan. 12 letter (pdf).

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China asked IOC President Thomas Bach for further information about its contracts with uniform supplier Anta Sports and Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group).

“There is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor,” said commission leaders Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), and ranking member Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).

Both Chinese companies, which will tailor sportswear and formal uniforms for athletes and IOC members, had previously stated that they use cotton from Xinjiang, where a large Uyghur Muslim population resides.

“Cotton produced in the XUAR [Xinjiang] is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there,” the letter reads.

From bedding to socks, search results on China’s e-commerce platforms show that textiles company HYX Group openly advertises the use of Xinjiang cotton. “High-quality Xinjiang long-staple cotton with more than 3,000 hours of sunlight,” is one such description listed in product details.

HYX sponsored the Tokyo Games last year and the 2008 Beijing Olympics before that, and Anta was the first Chinese supplier of sportswear uniforms to the IOC since the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the committee stated.

The 2022 Beijing Games will run from Feb. 4 to 20.

Despite a “certificate of origin” that HYX Group presented to the IOC, stating that the cotton used came from outside China, the lawmakers doubt its credibility.

The commissioners asked the IOC to make public “assurances” from the two companies and explain why such guarantees can be trusted, given the inability to conduct independent audits in the region.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese models display the uniforms for the volunteers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympic Games in Beijing on Jan. 20, 2008. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

In 2021, Anta quit the Switzerland-based cotton organization Better Cotton Initiative, after the institution suspended licensing cotton produced in Xinjiang, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.

In June 2021, lawmakers called on NBA players to end endorsement deals with Chinese sportswear firms that are linked to forced labor, including Anta.

Washington accused Beijing of committing “genocide” against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, an allegation Beijing has denied.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bill banning imports from the region amid concerns over forced labor, unless proven otherwise, after imposing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Games that was later joined by Australia, the UK, and Canada.

Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.