France investigates four fashion retailers linked to Xinjiang

France investigates four fashion retailers linked to Xinjiang

French prosecutors opened an investigation into four fashion retailers suspected of harboring crimes against humanity in China's Xinjiang region, Thursday (1/7). The procedure relates to accusations against China over its treatment of the region's Muslim Uighur minority, including the use of forced labour.

UMMATIMES - A French court source said Japan's Fast Retailing unit Uniqlo France, owners of Zara Inditex, SMCP France and Skechers are the subject of investigation. "An investigation has been opened by the crimes against humanity unit in the anti-terrorism prosecutor's office following the filing of the complaint," the source said in a report by French media website Mediapart.

Inditex rejects the claim regarding this legal complaint. The company added that it carries out strict traceability controls and will fully cooperate with the French investigation.

"At Inditex, we do not tolerate all forms of forced labor and have established policies and procedures to ensure this practice does not occur in our supply chain," the company said in a statement.

The SMCP said it would also cooperate with French authorities to prove the allegations false. "SMCP works with suppliers located around the world and states that they have no direct suppliers in the areas mentioned in the press," the company said, claiming to regularly audit its suppliers.

Two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) filed complaints in France in early April against multinational companies. This complaint is because the company is hiding forced labor and crimes against humanity.

UN experts and rights groups estimate more than one million people, mainly ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in the sprawling camp system in China's western Xinjiang region. Many ex-convicts say they have been subjected to ideological training and harassment.

Human rights groups say the camps have been used as a source of underpaid and forced labor. China denies all allegations of abuse.

Several Western brands including H&M, Burberry and Nike have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after raising concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang.

In March, the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing immediately retaliated with punitive measures of its own.