Activists investigating Ivanka Trump shoe factory in China arrested, then 'disappeared'

A labor activist who was investigating labor conditions at a Chinese factory that makes shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand was arrested by police, and has now disappeared, say his wife and a China labor rights group. Two other activists are also missing, and are also presumed to have also been detained by Chinese authorities for nosing around in Ivanka's supply chain.

All three activists were looking into labor conditions at the shoe factories in Huajian, China for China Labor Watch, a New York based workers’ rights nonprofit.

Li Zhao. one of three men arrested after investigating conditions at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes. [Li Zhao, seen here in March 2016, is one of three men arrested after investigating conditions at a Chinese factory that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes. (Deng Guilian, 2016]

From the Washington Post,

Huajian has previously said it has been making shoes for the U.S. president’s daughter for nearly a decade, accounting for one-third of her shoes made in China but only a small proportion of its total output. But China Labor Watch said its investigation in working practices at Huajian factories has apparently been closed down by local police.

Two of the activists were told they were not allowed to leave China in April and May, said Li Qiang, CLW’s founder — something he said was relatively common. But now all three appear to have been detained, which he said was unprecedented for his investigators.

“This never happened before in my 17 years’ experience. This is the first time,” he said. “The only reason we think this case is different is that this is Ivanka Trump’s factory.”

A White House spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s company, which declined to comment. Huajian spokesman Wei Xuegang said he was not aware of any arrests.

Marc Fisher Footwear, which manufactures Ivanka Trump shoes but does not own these facilities, said: “We were unaware of the allegations, this arrest and will look into them immediately.”

"Activists investigating Ivanka Trump brands in China arrested, missing" —WaPO

Here is the full China Labor Watch statement:

China Labor Watch Statement

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Over the last seventeen years, China Labor watch has conducted investigations in hundreds of factories across China. This is the first time any our investigator being detained under a criminal process. The accusation from Jiangxi police has no factual basis. Our activists discovered evidence that a supplier factory for Ivanka Trump’s brand company and many other brands had violated workers’ rights in ways that included: forced overtime, wages lower than China's legal minimum wage, managers' verbal abuse of workers, and violations of women’s rights. We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to related brand companies to advocate and press for the release our activists.

My first investigator, Li Zhao, started working at Huajian Factory in Dongguan on April 13. On the 16th, the factory security guard found him taking pictures and asked him to leave. Li left for Shenzhen and planned to meet up with me in Hong Kong on April 19. However, at Shenzhen Customs, he was detained for being suspected of committing a crime. Li was not allowed to cross the border. He was also given a Shenzhen phone number to call and inquire about his situation. Nevertheless, the police who answered his call was unaware of the incident and could not give him any information.

On May 9, he was out on a business trip when he and a coworker got a call from Shenzhen’s Longhua police station and were asked about their location.

Our second investigator is called Hua Haifeng. He began working at Dongguan Huajian factory on May 12. When crossing the border of Shenzhen on May 25, he was held up and told by the border control police that he has been suspected of a crime, hence not allowed to leave the border. He was then given a telephone number to call, which however is not connected through. So he dialed 110 to Shenzhen police station. After the line is connected, he told the police his name and contact number. Later he was contacted by Shenzhen National Security Brigade asking for a meeting. In the meeting, he was asked why he engaged in Huajian factory investigation. Hua answered that the factory workers complained about poor working conditions, so he was hired by China Labor Watch to gather some information from the factory.

The third investigator, Su Heng, began working at Ganzhou Huajian factory in Jiangxi on April 27, and lost contact since May 27.

We captured evidence of Ivanka Trump’s products at both Huajian factories in Dongguan, Guangdong and Ganzhou, Jiangxi.

Hua Haifeng is suspected of wiretapping device using by the police, and has been detained currently.

Related coverage from Newsweek: "AMERICA FIRST: IVANKA TRUMP PROFITS FROM UNDERPAID WORKERS IN CHINA, REPORT SAYS." New York Times: "China Detains Activist Who Worked at Manufacturer of Ivanka Trump Shoes."

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