Men investigating Ivanka Trump brand in China arrested, missing


Ivanka Trump, the U.S. president’s daughter, hosts a meeting on human trafficking with congressional leaders earlier this month. An advocacy group is claiming that men investigating her brand in China have been arrested or gone missing. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Jon Allsop

Associated Press

SHANGHAI — A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, said he lost contact with the arrested man, Hua Haifeng, and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China.

For 17 years, China Labor Watch has investigated working conditions at suppliers to some of the world’s best-known companies, but Li said his work has never before attracted this level of scrutiny from China’s state security apparatus.

“Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation,” Li said. “But now it has become more political.”Walt Disney Co. stopped working with a toy maker in Shenzhen last year after the group exposed labor violations.”

In the past, the worst thing Li feared was having investigators kicked out of a factory or face a short police detention.

That has changed.

The arrest and disappearances come amid a crackdown on perceived threats to the stability of China’s ruling Communist Party, particularly from sources with foreign ties such as China Labor Watch.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.

White House spokesperson Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand, which declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, who took over day-to-day management when the first daughter took on a White House role as presidential adviser, has said that the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”

AP has the full story.

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