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Activist Seeks Trumps' Help in Freeing Labor Investigators in China

  • VOA News

FILE - Shoes from the Ivanka Trump collection are displayed at a Lord & Taylor department store in New York, Aug. 23, 2012.

The head of a New York-based advocacy group has called on President Donald Trump and his older daughter to help secure the release of three men who reported labor violations at a Chinese company that makes shoes bearing the Ivanka Trump brand.

"We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release of our activists," Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, the men's employer, said Wednesday.

The Ivanka Trump brand has declined to comment. The White House and Ivanka Trump's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Calls to provincial police in China were not answered. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was unaware of the situation and declined to make further comments.

Hua Haifeng and two other labor activists, Li Zhao and Su Heng, had been covertly investigating labor conditions at two Chinese factories that make shoes for Trump and other brands, in the cities of Ganzhou and Dongguan. They disclosed preliminary findings to China Labor Watch, indicating workers at the factories had been subject to extremely long hours.

Hua was arrested in Jiangxi province on suspicion of illegally using eavesdropping equipment; he and the other two men disappeared Saturday and were last seen in Ganzhou, in southern Jiangxi province, China Labor Watch reported Tuesday.

FILE - Ivanka Trump hosts a meeting with congressional leaders, May 17, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.
FILE - Ivanka Trump hosts a meeting with congressional leaders, May 17, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.

The arrest and disappearances came amid Chinese President Xi Jinping's crackdown on the country's advocacy groups and civil society. In the past year, dozens of human rights activists have been detained in China.

The global human rights group Amnesty International called for the release of the three men if they are being held only for investigating possible labor abuses at the factories, which are owned by Huajian International.

"Activists exposing potential human rights abuses deserve protection, not persecution," said Amnesty International spokesman William Nee. "The trio appear to be the latest to fall foul of the Chinese authorities' aggressive campaign against human rights activists who have any ties to overseas organizations, using the pretense of 'national security.' "

The relationship between the Trump family and China has received widespread attention since last year's presidential campaign. While Trump has accused China of taking coveted manufacturing jobs from the U.S., the Trump family has sought to benefit financially from the Chinese market.

Trump recently obtained more than 75 trademarks in China. The family of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, is attempting to raise money from Chinese investors for a real estate venture.

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