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.
China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns at Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.’s factory in Jiangxi province, just north of Guangdong province.
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. Faced with rising labor unrest and a slowing economy, Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China’s manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.
There’s also the matter of the target of China Labor Watch’s investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States.
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump’s brand. The Ivanka Trump brand 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 the brand requires licensees and their manufacturers to “comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions.”
Li said China Labor Watch asked police about the three missing investigators on Monday but received no reply. Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man’s hometown.
AP was unable to reach the other investigators’ families. China’s Ministry of Public Security and police in Ganzhou city and Jiangxi province could not be reached for comment Tuesday, which was a national holiday in China.
In January, Liu Shiyuan, then spokesman for the Huajian Group, told AP the company makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for Ivanka Trump’s brand — a fraction of the 20 million pairs the company produces a year. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday. “I told you I could not check until tomorrow,” she said. “If your official letter contains a stamp and signature, we can confirm whether the media is real or not.”
Li said investigators had seen Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in the factory, as well as production orders for Ivanka Trump, Marc Fisher, Nine West and Easy Spirit merchandise.
“We were unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately,” a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher, which manufactures Ivanka Trump, Easy Spirit and its own branded shoes, said in an email. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.