Press Release: Global Coalition Applauds Enes Kanter for Speaking Out Against Uyghur Forced Labour
Coalition urges global sportswear and fashion brands to immediately commit to removing Uyghur forced labour from their supply chains
WASHINGTON — Today, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, which brings together over 400 organizations around the world, commended NBA player Enes Kanter for taking a public stance in defense of the Uyghur people. Kanter, along with members of the Coalition, held a press conference on Capitol Hill on Saturday, urging Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and calling on companies to cut the Uyghur Region out of their supply chains. One of the speakers, Uyghur activist Kalbinur Gheni, told the story of her sister who is currently in a forced labour camp.
“I stand firmly with the Uyghur community and stand on the right side of history, which is in support of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” said Enes Kanter. “Sportswear and fashion brands should exit the Uyghur Region. We must hold corporations accountable if they use any form of forced labour.”
Kanter’s commentary over the past week has shined a light on the pervasiveness of sportswear and fashion brands’ complicity in forced labour. With over 20 percent of the world’s cotton sourced from the Uyghur Region, and the Chinese government’s ongoing campaign of surveillance and intimidation, it is impossible for companies to ensure products sourced from the Uyghur Region are not tainted by forced labour. Therefore, brands that do not wish to profit from forced labour must cut the Uyghur Region and factories that use Uyghur forced labour from their supply chains.
“Enes is precisely the kind of ally we welcome to this cause. By taking his message to social media and to the court of an NBA game, he has helped educate millions about big brands’ complicity in forced labour and mass internment. We expect those in the sportswear and fashion industry, and other industries heavily involved in the region, to be as clear and courageous in their actions,” said Jewher Ilham, Uyghur human rights advocate and author of the forthcoming book, Because I Have To: The Path to Survival, The Uyghur Struggle.
Legislation like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act will make it more difficult for companies with business ties to the Uyghur Region to continue to have access to the U.S. market, and the Coalition is encouraged by Kanter’s willingness to publicly support the Act during today’s press conference. Despite having strong bipartisan support, the bill continues to languish in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Coalition is calling on companies to get ahead of the mounting regulatory crackdown on cotton sourced from the Uyghur Region by signing a brand commitment – the Call to Action to exit the Uyghur Region and prevent use of forced labour of Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, which sets forth specific steps companies must take. The Coalition is in regular correspondence with brands about the presence of Uyghur forced labour in their supply chains. Brands that have signed include Asos, Eileen Fisher, Marks & Spencer, and WE Fashion.
“Forced labour is illegal under international law. In their communications with companies, investors have been clear: companies need to ensure they are not sourcing from or connected to suppliers in the Uyghur Region or to any suppliers exposed to Uyghur forced labour risks,” said Anita Dorett, Director of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of over 200 institutional investors, representing over $6 trillion in assets under management and 18 countries. “Congress, the European Union, and other governments are gearing up to take stronger action against those complicit in the forced labour scheme. Companies can and must get ahead of it. We urge companies to sign onto the Call to Action.”
Kanter’s stance is the latest in a growing trend of activists and athletes calling attention to the crimes against humanity taking place in the Uyghur Region. Former professional basketball player Royce White and football stars Mesut Ozil and Antoine Griezmann have spoken out, and protests continue to grow ahead of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
About the Coalition
The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan.
The coalition is calling on leading companies 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.
We call on governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives, companies, and other stakeholders to join us in challenging this abusive system and together build the economic and political pressure on the Chinese government to end forced labour in the Uyghur Region.