Coalition of 400 Human Rights Groups Presses IOC Over Forced Labor in Olympics Merchandise
The Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region has criticized the International Olympic Committee after the IOC failed to clarify whether merchandise for the upcoming Beijing Olympics was made with forced labor.
According to WWD, the coalition, made up of 400 organizations spanning 40 countries, have attempted for eight months to receive assurance that the merchandise was not made with forced labor by Uyghur Muslims, who have been subjected to alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese government in the country's main cotton manufacturing region.
"The IOC has no idea whether the thousands of Olympic-branded products its corporate sponsors and other partners are selling are made with Uyghur forced labor," Scott Novam, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which is a member of the coalition, told WWD. "What's worse, Olympic leaders apparently don't care, as evidenced by their failure to perform and disclose meaningful due diligence."
Beijing Olympics: the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region says the IOC hasn’t offered credible evidence that Olympic-branded apparel was made without forced labor from Xinjiang, with concerns centering around Anta. @stuwoo https://t.co/P5SFLae2hH
— Yoko Kubota (@Kubota_Yoko) January 6, 2022
The IOC has sourced apparel from Anta Sports, which sources its cotton from the Xinjiang region. The Chinese government has maintained that there is no forced labor or human rights abuses going on in Xinjiang, but last year the Biden Administration passed a law to ban imports from Xinjiang into the U.S.
WWD also reported that the U.S., U.K., Canada, Japan and Australia have diplomatically boycotted the upcoming Olympics, deciding to send no official government delegation. (Athletes from each country will still participate in the games.)
Despite calls to the IOC to detail its human rights due diligence plan, the coalition said that "there is no evidence that the IOC has conducted such due diligence or a human rights impact assessment—related to forced labor of Uyghurs or otherwise. Nor is there any indication that the IOC has engaged with the Beijing Organizing Committee—effectively the Chinese government—on forced labor or other labor or human rights risks."
The use of Xinjiang cotton was a major issue during the leadup to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when multiple countries outfitted their athletes in apparel from suppliers that used Xinjiang cotton.