U.S. Sports Apparel Company Linked to Chinese Internment Camps

Chinese authorities claim the camps make productive citizens out of ethnic minorities.

An American athletic apparel company, Badger Sportswear, has been found to have commercial links with Hetian Taida Apparel, a Chinese company which sources clothes made in internment camps in the Xinjiang region of China. The Chinese authorities, as per media reports, have locked up a significant number of men and women who were forced to sew clothes inside state subsidized, but privately-owned, factories. Between them, both Badger and Hetian make a tidy profit from the arrangement. The American company sells clothing to numerous sports teams and colleges all over the United States. Badger is headquartered in Statesville, North Carolina.

The reality is a sordid one. The camp in question is in Hotan and one among an increasing number of brutal internment camps which have sprung up in the Xinjiang region. As per independent observers, about one million Muslims are believed to have been detained. Xinjiang is pushing a policy which compels the ethnic Uighurs to surrender their Muslim religion and be subjected to immense political indoctrination. Authorities now force a number of detainees to work in the food and manufacturing industries.

The importation of Chinese products made with forced labor without any murmur into the United States displays how hard it is to halt products of this sort to enter the worldwide supply chain, even as the official policy of the U.S. is to debar such products to make their way to American consumers. When informed, John Anton, the Badger CEO, told the media that his company will investigate the truth of the claims and will import clothes from other suppliers while the investigation is underway.

The chairman of Hetian Taida, Wu Hongbo, admitted his factory shares working space with a re-education compound. He insisted his company offers employment to trainees considered by the government to be of a more pleasant disposition. The chairman claims this scheme removes poverty. China claims Uighurs and Kazakhs, along with other minorities, predominantly Muslims, are provided with free vocational training so they can participate in the “modern civilized” world. According to the authorities, people who are working in the centers have all signed an agreement to receive vocational training. Relatives of those being trained claim they were forced to work in the factories.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter