A U.S. supplier of T-shirts and other team apparel to college bookstores cut its ties Wednesday with a Chinese company that drew workers from an internment camp holding targeted members of ethnic minority groups.
In recent years, authorities in the far west Chinese region of Xinjiang have detained an estimated 1 million Uighurs and Kazakhs in heavily-secured facilities where detainees said they are ordered to renounce their language and religion while pledging loyalty to the China's ruling Communist Party.
Last month, an Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government had also started forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. The investigation tracked recent shipments from one such factory, the privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, located inside an internment camp, to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina.
In a statement posted to its website, Badger said Wednesday it will no longer do business with Hetian Taida, nor import any goods from the same region "given the controversy around doing business" there.
"Furthermore, we will not ship any product sourced from Hetian Taida currently in our possession," the company said, adding the supplier accounted for about 1 percent of Badger's total annual sales.
Repeated calls to Hetian Taida's chairman, Wu Hongbo, rang unanswered Wednesday. In a previous conversation with the AP, Wu said while Hetian Taida was located in the same compound as one camp that the government calls a "vocational skills education and training center," Hetian Taida was not involved in the camp's activities.
However, Wu said his company employed 20-30 "trainees" from the center as part of the region's efforts to alleviate poverty.