Men probing Ivanka Trump supplier in China arrested, missing

Cheryl Sanders
May 31, 2017

Li Qiang told the AP he assumed the men were being held by either the factory or the police.

The three activists were investigating labor conditions at Huajian shoe factories for China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit organization that aims to defend workers' rights.

It's the first time in 17 years that activists working for the non-profit workers advocacy group have been detained by the Chinese police, Mr Li said. "But now it has become more political".

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen previous year after the group exposed labor violations.

China Labor Watch were initially planning on releasing a report highlighting allegations of miserable pay and unreasonable hours.

Hua had been investigating a vocational school in Jiangxi affiliated with the parent company of the factories when he was arrested. Another key difference which you surely picked up on by now: China Labor Watch is investigating a brand owned by Daddy's little girl, Ivanka Trump.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump's brand. The Ivanka Trump brand reportedly produces 20 million pairs of shoes each year.

Li Zhao, one of the missing activists, was telephoned by police before he disappeared, but was not asked to report for questioning. Hua and the two other activists, Li Zhao and Su Heng, have been unreachable since Sunday.

The Huajian Group said it makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes for Ivanka Trump's brand annually.

Activists are usually simply ejected from the factory, or in the worst case questioned by police before being set free.

"I was scared when the police called me, I was shaking with a mix of fear and anger", Deng told the Guardian, adding she was anxious she would be unable to support their two young children as well as three elderly relatives without his income. "If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not".

The Global Times report also cited staff from two factories in Guangdong as saying that their companies had received a memo from Ivanka Trump's China-based agent shortly after the US department store Nordstrom dropped her products in February, notifying them that any media reports on her suppliers in China would not be good for her image due to political reasons.

Trademark applications from Ivanka Trump Marks LLC images taken off the website of China's trademark database are displayed next to a Chinese online shopping website selling purported Ivanka Trump branded footwear on computer screens in Beijing, China.

. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment. But Li said his work has never attracted such scrutiny from China's state security apparatus.

Hua, 36, attempted to travel to Hong Kong last week but was stopped at the border.

AP reported that the three men had already documented excessive overtime and a below minimum wage at the Chinese company. The use of student workers in China is legal, but meant to be strictly regulated.

Pledges and requirements have not stemmed widespread abuses at Chinese factories, which have seen a surge in worker protests in recent years.

"It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation", said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International.

She said she had not told her two young children, ages 7 and 3, who still think their father is working away from home.

But they now all appear to have been detained, he said, something he said was very rare.

"My son suddenly burst into tears".

"If he is sentenced for this, I can't accept it, I can't accept it's justice", she said by phone from her home in the central province of Hubei.

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