Published: Thu, June 01, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Three men investigating Chinese factory tied to Ivanka Trump go missing

Police in China have arrested a labour activist who was working undercover, investigating abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes, while two others are missing.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Tuesday urged President Trump's daughter Ivanka to sever ties with a Chinese company that produces her brand's shoes, following a report that three men investigating the company had been arrested or gone missing.

The activists were investigating a Jiangxi province-based factory owned by Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City, a subsidiary of the Huajian Group and one of the suppliers for Ivanka Trump's fashion brand.

Li Zhao had worked covertly at a shoe factory in the city of Dongguan, in Guangdong province, Mr Li said.

Other customers supplied by the two factories under investigation by China Labor Watch include Coach, Alain Delon, Nine West and Karl Lagerfeld, the advocacy group said.

Huajian Group and the Ivanka Trump brand did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty International, said the activists' predicament is "extremely worrying" because labor activism, which mainly targets companies rather than the government, is "usually considered less sensitive than other human rights and political activism".

Officials at the local police department in Jiangxi said they weren't aware of any cases involving China Labor Watch activists.

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Huajian didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hua's wife, Deng Guilian, told CNN that she received a call from Jiangxi police telling her that her husband has been detained for conducting illegal surveillance and that she should expect to receive a formal notice in the mail soon.

The Global Times report also cited staff members 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, for political reasons.

We would suggest that this sort of story does no favors for Ivanka Trump's image, but there hasn't been a pulled Jenga block that has hurt her among the Trump devotee base.

China Labor Watch has carried out frequent investigations into labor violations in Chinese factories making anything from Disney toys to Apple iPhones.

Li said on separate occasions this month and in April, Hua and one of the other activists, Li Zhao, had attempted to meet him in Hong Kong but were turned away because they were "suspected of criminal activity". She said China welcomed global NGOs to carry out research, but added, "we also hope that NGOs can also observe Chinese laws and regulations and don't engage in any illegal actions or behavior".

Li said his investigators had documented long working days, the longest stretching 18 hours, from 7:10 1:30 a.m. next day. But they seem to know anyway, she said. "He said he missed Papa", Deng said by phone from her home in central China's Hubei province.

These detentions come as legal and labor advocacy has been facing increased pressure in China over the last two years.

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