Jan 12, 2022 - World

Lawmakers ask IOC to prove Chinese companies making uniforms are not using forced labor

The stage for awarding ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
The stage for awarding ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Photo: Han Haidan/China News Service via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday to International Olympic Committee president President Thomas Bach asking him to justify the IOC's ties with two Chinese companies that use cotton produced in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The letter from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) notes that "there is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor.”

Of note: Congress recently passed and President Biden signed a bill banning all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless there is clear evidence they were not made with forced labor.

The big picture: The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

  • The letter says that Xinjiang cotton "is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there."
  • The letter is signed by CECC chair Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and co-chair Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), as well as ranking member Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).

State of play: The letter notes that sportwear company Anta Sports and textiles company Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group) both continue to use cotton produced in Xinjiang.

  • The letter cites reporting from Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Shawna Chen that the IOC had contracted HYX Group to supply uniforms for IOC members and staff during the Games, and that HYX had given the IOC a "certificate of origin" stating that the cotton used came from outside China.
  • Now, the lawmakers have asked the IOC to make the "certificate of origin" given to them by HYX Group public.
  • They also asked that the IOC to "explain the assurances" they received from Anta Sports that their products are not made with forced labor, and to explain why the IOC found those assurances reliable.
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