The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has contracted a Chinese company that sells cotton from Xinjiang, a Chinese province whose imports the United States (USA) banned alleging human rights abuses as a supplier for the summer and winter Olympics.
According to the information website Axios, quoted this Wednesday by the agency Lusa, the Hengyuanxiang (HYX) group, which will supply the formal uniforms for the summer (Tokyo 2021) and winter (Beijing 2022) Olympics, has a factory in Xinjiang and advertises products on online platforms as coming from this northwestern province in China .
IOC official source told Axios that HYX has made available a certificate of origin of cotton indicating that it is produced outside of China, but did not say who issued the certificate or make a copy of it available. “Given the diverse participation in the Olympic Games, the IOC has remained neutral in all global political matters,” he said.
In December, a coalition of Chinese ethnic minorities accused the IOC of “turning a blind eye to the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the Chinese authorities”.
Other organizations, such as the Better Cotton Initiative, also publicly criticized the humanitarian practices of the Xinjiang cotton industry, while the Workers’ Rights Consortium considered “Morally reprehensible” for the IOC to associate itself with a company that “not only supplies itself in the region [da minoria muçulmana] figure, but it boasts of that in advertising its products ”.
Given evidence that hundreds of thousands of Uighurs may be working hard in the cotton industry in Xinjiang, part of a wider campaign of forced assimilation, in January, the US banned imports of all cotton products made in the Chinese province.
At the end of last month, several e-commerce platforms in China (JD.com, Taobao, Tmall and Pinduoduo) stopped showing the Swedish clothing brand H&M’s digital store, months after the company announced the suspension of cotton use of Xinjiang due to the alleged use of forced labor in the sector.
Before, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League published a message on the Weibo social network in which it asked: “Did you want to make money in China while spreading rumors to boycott cotton from Xinjiang? You wanted it! ”. The text was accompanied by the statement from H&M, in which the brand claimed to prohibit “any type of forced labor” in its production chain “regardless of the country or region”.
The company also indicated that it would end the employment relationship with a Chinese supplier until the allegations contained in a report were clarified, according to which 82 Chinese and foreign firms had benefited from the forced relocation of members of the Uighur minority.
Other companies, such as the American Nike, which last year issued a statement similar to that of H&M, were also affected by calls for a boycott of some Chinese internet users, which led actor Wang Yibo to terminate the advertising contract with Nike.
These calls for a boycott, months after statements by H&M and Nike, emerged in the same week that European Union announced sanctions against four individuals and a Chinese institution for alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang. The United Kingdom, Canada and the USA have also announced similar sanctions.
On the same day that these measures were announced, on Monday, China responded with sanctions against ten individuals and four EU institutions.