According to a workers advocacy group, two Chinese labor activists who were investigating labor violations at a factory that manufactures Ivanka Trump shoes were reported missing over the weekend, with a third detained by police.
New York-based China Labor Watch was directing Hua Haifeng, Li Zhao and Su Heng, in their undercover work at a factory operated by shoe manufacturer Huajian Group in the southeast province of Jiangxi. Founder of China Labor Watch, Li Qiang, reported that the three investigators were unreachable by phone over the weekend.
Local police contacted Hua’s wife, Deng Guimian, Tuesday and informed her that he has been detained for illegal eavesdropping.
China Labor Watch reported that it is investigating 15 factories, including Huajian’s facility, that produce for the Ivanka Trump brand. In April, the group sent a letter to the first daughter, alleging numerous labor violations at two unnamed factories that supply the Ivanka Trump brand. According to the letter, employees were forced to work a minimum of 12 1/2 hours a day for wages below China’s legal minimum—approximately a dollar an hour.
Li said that this is the first time in 17 years that investigators employed by the non-profit China Labor Watch have been detained by Chinese police. Last week, Hua was due to deliver evidence of violations including photographs and videos to Li, but Li claims Hua was prohibited from leaving the country without being given a reason.
“I’ve been with my husband for 10 years and he has always been in this line. There’s never been any problems before,” Hua’s wife Deng, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He was working for justice and helping ordinary workers. I felt that what he did was not harming anyone, he was helping people.”
According to the Huajian Group’s website, the factory also makes produces products for other brands such as Coach and Marc Fisher Footwear Co. A spokesman for Marc Fisher asserted that the company is “unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately.”
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