Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand employs an ethically questionable manufacturer. At the end of April, reports of labor abuse at the factory, operated by G-III Apparel Group Ltd, surfaced; employees were allegedly paid $62 for a 60-hour workweek and forced to work exorbitant overtime hours. Now, China has detained at least one activist who was investigating labor violations at another factory where Trump’s shoes are produced.
According to the Associated Press, one labor activist was detained by Chinese authorities while two others are missing (but are presumed to have been arrested as well). The activists worked for China Labor Watch, an American nonprofit that investigates abuse of workers across China. Hua Haifeng, one of the detained activists, worked undercover at the Huajian factory where Trump’s shoes are made; he allegedly witnessed verbal abuse, unpaid overtime, low pay, and misuse of student labor, according to the nonprofit’s executive director, Li Qiang.
Authorities called Haifeng’s wife, Deng Guimian, to inform her that her husband had been arrested. “They said, ‘You only need to know that your husband has been arrested on criminal charges. You don’t need to know anything other than that,'” Guiman told NPR. Chinese officials claim that the activists used illegal surveillance methods in their research; Li contends that they only had cell phones.
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Li also told NPR that Haifeng had recorded more than eight hours of footage that purported to show labor abuses at the Huajian shoe factory (which produces roughly 20,000 pairs of shoes for Trump a year). The factory was a target, Li added, because it would be convincing leverage to persuade Trump’s brand to address rampant poor labor conditions in China.
It’s not shocking that the Chinese government detained activists investigating Trump’s factory, given the suspicious timing of Trump’s trademark approval in the country, and Li agrees. NPR reports that “he believes that the police are trying to protect this factory because it makes shoes for Ivanka Trump,” and “he says he has investigated hundreds of factories in China — and while his staff have often been caught and kicked out, they have never been arrested until now.”