The social media campaign has so far garnered over 200,000 sympathizers.
Rabat – Member of the European Parliament Raphael Glucksmann has launched a social media campaign titled “France for Uighurs” to denounce global fashion companies that are involved in human rights abuse scandals in China, such as Zara and Lacoste.
The French MEP launched the campaign in June after a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) revealed that some 80,000 Uighurs, a Muslim minority in northwestern China, are forced into labor for the benefit of global fashion companies.
The institute identified 27 factories where the Uighurs are working away from their homes in Xinjiang. The factories ASPI says are abusing Uighurs supply 83 international companies, including Adidas, Nike, Puma, Lacoste, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein.
Warnings of human rights abuses against Uighurs have been ongoing since 2014. However, their media coverage only intensified in the last couple of years after leaked footage showed hundreds of Uighurs being transferred from their homes to allegedly forced labor and organ harvesting programs.
In response to the videos, the Chinese government claimed the groups were taken to “voluntary educational centers.” The Uighurs then “graduate” from the centers and begin “training” in factories, according to China’s official narrative.
The “France for Uighurs” campaign is currently targeting all the companies accused of benefiting from the Uighurs’ forced labor.
“Three million Muslim Uighurs are imprisoned and tortured in China. Not for what they do, but for what they are,” reads the slogan Glucksmann picked for his campaign, which has so far garnered over 200,000 sympathizers.
As part of the campaign, the MEP contacted Zara and Lacoste, among other companies, and asked them to cut their ties with all the Chinese suppliers that are forcing Uighurs into labor.
While Adidas and Lacoste have responded positively to the requests and pledged to stop their commercial ties with the Chinese suppliers, other companies, such as Zara, denied dealing with factories that are allegedly abusing Uighurs.
Meanwhile, Nike replied with “ambiguous” answers and refused to provide any proof that they are not part of a forced labor scheme. After receiving Nike’s response, the MEP highlighted the importance of a legislative framework to enforce a corporate duty of care.
After the campaign went viral, some companies, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, contacted Glucksmann before he reached out to them, pledging to cut ties with their suppliers in the next 12 months.
With international organizations growingly pressuring businesses, it remains to be seen how the movement will affect trade relations between China and the rest of the world.