Chinese activist questions arrest in Ivanka Trump shoe factory investigation
Beijing, China - Labour activist Hua Haifeng had avoided legal trouble in his 14 years investigating companies in China, but that changed after he looked into a factory that made shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand.
Hua and two colleagues had worked undercover in factories that manufactured shoes for the brand of US President Donald Trump’s daughter and other foreign firms when they were detained in May.
The 36 year old activist and the two other men, who work for New York-based non-profit China Labor Watch (CLW), were accused of using ‘ spying and other monitoring equipment’.
The government has intensified a crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers in recent years.
But Hua told AFP he believes the factory’s link to the Ivanka Trump brand may have been a ‘factor that attracted police interest’, though he cannot confirm it.
“As for Ms Ivanka and her family, I want to say that business activities should abide by business regulations, and not use a family’s political resources for personal commercial gain,” said Hua.
Hua, who was released on bail in June along with his colleagues, said he was interrogated on 16 occasions for up to three hours at a time. He was kept in a shared cell where he slept beside a urine bucket. For the first week he was not given access to a lawyer, but the father of two said his condi- tions gradually improved as his wife paid the authorities to give him better food.
Li Qiang, CLW’s founding director, said the case marks the first time activists have faced police trouble in the non-profit’s 17 year history.
“But this is the first time we’ve investigated Ivanka Trump [suppliers], so it may very well be related to the brand,” Li said.
The activists had been probing two plants owned by major footwear producer Huajian Group - one in the city of Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, the other in southern Jiangxi province’s Ganzhou.
A CLW statement alleged that factory employees worked 15-hour days with minimal breaks and no overtime pay, among other labour abuses.
Collectively, the investigators worked undercover at the factories for several weeks between March and May.