Berlin, MINA – Human rights activists said on Monday they had filed criminal complaints in Germany against five companies, including C&A, Lidl and Hugo Boss, alleging that they benefited from forced labor against Chinese Uyghurs.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) said it had filed the case, which also targeted two supermarket chains Aldi Nord and Aldi Sued, following an investigation, Nahar Net reported.
Miriam Saage-Maass of the ECCHR said it was difficult for civil society organizations to get clear evidence of the abuse, but enough for prosecutors to take a closer look.
She said there was a lot of information emerging to suggest forced labor was taking place.
“The question is whether establishing a business relationship is not a way to aid and abet this international crime,” she said.
Saage-Maass added that five companies have listed “publicly and voluntarily” their supplier factories from Xinjiang – the Chinese province at the center of allegations of forced labor but they may only be the tip of the iceberg.
“We believe that these five are really just examples of a much broader and more systematic problem,” she said.
He pointed out that Chinese cotton makes up 20 percent of global production of which 80 percent is produced in Xinjiang.
“So it’s very likely that more companies are taking from the region,” she added.
The United States says the Beijing government is committing genocide against the Uyghurs and mostly Muslim Turks in Xinjiang, where experts estimate more than a million people are imprisoned in camps.
However, Beijing denies genocide and describes the camps as vocational training centers, a statement denied by Uyghurs who say they are forced to abandon religious traditions.
Several major consumer brands including Uniqlo, H&M, Nike and Adidas announced last year that they would stop buying cotton from the region, leading to calls for a boycott in China.
The ECCHR’s move follows similar actions in France.
In July, a French judge opened an investigation into allegations four fashion groups including Uniqlo and owner Zara profited from forced labor of the Uyghur minority in China.
The case is based on complaints filed in April by anti-corruption group Sherpa, the French branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign, and the European Uyghur Institute, as well as by a Uyghur woman who has been detained in a camp in Xinjiang, China. (T/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)