Forced labour in China presents dilemmas for fashion brands

THE WORLD has few more Orwellian conglomerates than the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a nearly 3m-strong paramilitary-style business in western China. It was set up in 1954 to spur an influx of demobbed soldiers from the Han majority into an area dominated by Muslim Uighurs. It retains a militia of 100,000, charged with rooting out extremism. The militiamen and others help the XPCC furnish the world with a panoply of goods. About 400,000 XPCC farmers harvest a third of China’s cotton. Others are part of Xinjiang’s tomato-exporting business. From pyjamas to passata, XPCC products penetrate global supply chains.

America’s State Department says that it also uses forced labour. In late July the US Treasury hit XPCC with sanctions, alleging a connection with human-rights abuses in Xinjiang where at least 1m Uighurs and members of other ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. That followed a memo from President Donald Trump’s administration advising firms to sever any connection they may have with forced labour within and outside the autonomous region. Some retailers, such as PVH Corp, whose brands include Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, publicly said they would cut ties with Xinjiang, out of concern for labour practices. Supply-chain auditors for Western makers of electronics and footwear say there are...



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