Activists Investigating Ivanka Trump-tied Factory Detained

The New York Times’ Keith Bradsher reports that Hua Haifeng and two other labor activists have been detained in Jiangxi Province while working undercover to investigate conditions at two factories for China Labor Watch. The Huajian International factories that the were investigating make shoes for ’s brand, among others.

The activist, Hua Haifeng, who was working on behalf of the advocacy group China Labor Watch, was detained on suspicion of illegal eavesdropping, his wife, Deng Guimian, said late Tuesday. Mr. Hua and two other labor activists had been undercover at two Chinese factories that make shoes for Ms. Trump and other brands. They all disappeared on Saturday, according to their employer, China Labor Watch.

[…] Li Qiang, the director of China Labor Watch, said that the three labor activists did not have any illegal eavesdropping equipment, and speculated that Mr. Hua and the other activists might have been detained over the use of cellphones. “Jiangxi police are just looking for an excuse,” he said.

[…] Mr. Li, who set up China Labor Watch 17 years ago and has conducted hundreds of investigations of Chinese factories, said this was the first time any of his activists had been detained in a criminal case. China Labor Watch has previously looked into at Apple and Samsung.

In his view, the unusual action by the Chinese police appeared to be a response to his group’s decision to investigate a manufacturing operation related to President Trump’s family. But he offered no evidence for his opinion. […] [Source]

Bradsher also notes that the Ivanka Trump brand has declined to comment on this story, and that a spokesperson for Marc Fisher Footwear, the company that makes Ivanka Trump shoes, has claimed a lack of awareness of the labor allegations and promised to look into the matter.

These detentions come as legal and labor advocacy has been facing increased pressure in China over the last two years. The trials of three Guangdong labor activists last year, which resulted in suspended prison sentences, were marked by commentators as the “end of an era” of Chinese labor activism. Meanwhile, a steady stream of new laws and draft legislation with the potential to criminalize advocacy under the banner of “state security” continues, alarming many activists.

Coverage from the AP notes recent instances of Western brands cutting ties with Chinese manufacturers after labor violations were exposed, highlighting the severity of Hua’s criminal detention:

Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations. China Labor Watch has also published reports on child labor at Samsung suppliers and spent years investigating Apple Inc.’s China factories. In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police .

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances come amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States. […] [Source]

See also “The Chinese Miracle That is Ivanka Trump,” an examination of the warm acclaim Ivanka has been receiving from Chinese netizens—for diverging from the behavior of China’s homegrown “second generation rich,” and for having many physical characteristics that are in line with modern Chinese ideas of beauty—from Refinery 29.