Indictment: C&A and Hugo ‘benefit’ from Uighur forced labor in China?



Translated by

Aline Bonnefoy

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Human rights activists have filed a lawsuit against several German companies, including Lidl and Hugo Boss. They are accused of “profiting” from the forced labor of the Muslim Uighur minority in China.

Boss – Spring / Summer 2021 – Milan – © PixelFormula

The human rights organization European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), based in Berlin, reports that it has filed a “criminal complaint against several German companies”. Accordingly, the said companies would have “aided in crimes against humanity”.

The focus is on the clothing chains Hugo Boss and C&A as well as the food groups Lidl, Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd. The NGO accuses the companies of “directly or indirectly promoting or benefiting from the forced labor of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang”.

Western countries accuse the Chinese government of detaining members of this predominantly Muslim and Turkish-speaking community in western China in large forced camps.

The companies accused by ECCHR have suppliers in the region who they have “declared publicly and voluntarily”, explains the manager of the NGO, Miriam Saage-Maaß.

The human rights organization knows that it is difficult to obtain concrete evidence of the use of forced labor. “The point is to know whether it is not encouraging these crimes if companies continue to do business in a situation like this,” she says. “We believe that these five cases are just an example and point to a broader and more systematic problem,” said Saage-Maaß.
In April, the anti-corruption organization Sherpa in France had already filed a similar lawsuit against four clothing giants, including Uniqlo and Zara. As a result, an investigation was opened by the Crimes Against Humanity Division of the French Anti-Terrorism Public Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) at the end of June.

The US reiterates that Beijing has committed genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkish peoples in Xinjiang. It is estimated that over a million people are being held in camps in the region. The Chinese government firmly rejects the genocide allegation and describes the camps as training camps. The Uyghurs, in turn, contradict this representation. They say they are being forced to give up their religious traditions.

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