Beijing Olympics Merchandise May Be Tainted, Coalition Says

An activist coalition has criticized the International Olympics Committee saying the Games organizers have failed to ensure that no forced Uyghur labor will be involved in the production of Beijing Winter Olympics merchandise.

The Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region, a joint campaign of 400 organizations from 40 countries, said they had attempted to engage the IOC for eight months to seek due diligence assurances for Olympics-branded merchandise but had ultimately been dismissed by the committee.

“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,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, one of the coalition member agencies. “What’s worse, Olympic leaders apparently don’t care, as evidenced by their failure to perform and disclose meaningful due diligence.”

The IOC lists its supplier code on its website, outlining the minimal social and environmental requirements for its suppliers. It encompasses human rights, labor conditions, waste minimization, optimization of transport and ethics. However, the IOC’s official sportswear uniform supplier Anta Sports, for example, is among many apparel companies around the world that source cotton from Xinjiang. Countless domestic Chinese companies in the aftermath of the Better Cotton Initiative furor last March took pains to specifically list “Xinjiang cotton” in its product listings and descriptions in a show of nationalistic support.

The Chinese government has always maintained that there are no abuses going on in the region, however, the U.S. and several European legislatures have stated there is evidence of genocide and widespread oppression taking place against the Muslim ethnic minority. On Dec. 22, the Biden administration passed into law a ban on all imports from Xinjiang.

The issue has already led to the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia to diplomatically boycott the Games, which are due to kick off on Feb. 4. Japan also stated it would not send an official government delegation to the Games but stopped short of calling it a boycott.

As early as last April, the coalition said it had explicitly “called on the IOC to articulate its human rights due diligence plan” and specifically insisted that “procurement of any goods or merchandise comply with the International Labour Organization core labor standards,” which include no forced labor.

“Yet 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,” it said.

SEE ALSO:

What to Watch: Contending With China’s Clout

U.S. Boycott, Multiple Reports Point to Persistent Cotton Crisis in Xinjiang

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