UK business ‘must wake up’ to China’s Uighur cotton slaves

UK business 'must wake up' to China's Uighur cotton slaves

UK business ‘must wake up’ to China’s Uighur cotton slaves

 
 
·1 min read
 
 
Farmers pick cotton during the harvest on October 21, 2019 in Shaya County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.
Farmers pick cotton during the harvest on October 21, 2019 in Shaya County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

UK businesses must investigate where they get their cotton to avoid buying material grown by slave labour, according to a member of an influential parliamentary committee.

The call comes in the aftermath of a BBC investigation.

Documents show that China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities into hard labour.

 

“UK businesses must now wake up to these disturbing realities,” said MP Nusrat Ghani.

Businesses must “stop denying knowledge of what is taking place, examine their supply lines rigorously and make sure they are absolutely clear that they are not profiting from slave labour and abuse of the Uighurs,” said Ms Ghani, who investigated the issue for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.

The BBC asked 30 major international brands if they intend to continue sourcing products from China as a result of our findings.

Of those that replied, only four – Marks & Spencer, Next, Burberry and Tesco – said they had a strict policy of demanding that items sourced from anywhere in China do not use raw cotton from Xinjiang.

Ms Ghani praised the four companies, but said more firms should follow suit.

Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Protecting the welfare of people and communities is fundamental to our members’ sourcing practices, and retailers are investigating their supply from China, particularly from the Xinjiang region, to ensure forced labour is not used and high standards are being upheld.”

The UK passed anti-slavery legislation in 2015 under the the Modern Slavery Act, but it covers people trafficking and slavery in the UK rather than abroad.