Marks & Spencer Signs Call to Action Against China's Forced Labour of the Uyghur People

Kara Kia
·1-min read
HAMI, CHINA - OCTOBER 09: A farmer harvests cotton in a field on October 10, 2020 in Hami, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. (Photo by Pulati Niyazi/VCG via Getty Images)
HAMI, CHINA - OCTOBER 09: A farmer harvests cotton in a field on October 10, 2020 in Hami, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. (Photo by Pulati Niyazi/VCG via Getty Images)

It might comes as a surprise that 20 percent of the world's cotton is produced by forced labour in Xinjiang, China - and this has to end. The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an independent UK organisation that monitors ethical supply chains, started a call to action against human rights violations in China's Uyghur region, and Marks & Spencer is one of the first major retailers to formally sign the petition.

"The coalition is calling on leading brands and retailers to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labour of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government," said The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region on its website.

More than 80 percent of China's cotton and 20 percent of the cotton used in the global fashion industry is produced from enslaved Turkic Uyghur and Muslim-majority peoples in the Xinjiang autonomous region. An estimated one to two million of these people have been put in mass concentration camps by the Chinese government on the basis of their ethnicity and religion. The mass detention programs are being used to "cleanse" ethnic groups through re-education and forced labour. Multiple human rights watch groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called the treatment of the Uyghur people in China a crime against humanity, and we hope more retailers will support the call to action.