Growing concerns Olympic uniforms manufactured with forced laborSmith presses International Olympic Committee to prove uniforms not made with forced labor in China
In a bipartisan letter released this week, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), together with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), pressed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to prove Olympic uniforms are not made with forced labor from China’s Xinjiang Region—where the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against predominantly-Muslim Uyghurs and other Central Asian minorities.
The letter to IOC President Thomas Bach comes after the Committee entered contracts ahead of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Games with two companies—Anta Sports and Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group)—that have stated publicly that they use cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
“Because Anta and HYX Group both continue to use cotton produced in the XUAR, there is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor,” the three lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“Cotton produced in the XUAR is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there. The Chinese Communist Party and government have created a system of mass surveillance and internment, forbidden the observance of key tenets of Islam and otherwise restricted individuals’ ability to peacefully practice their religion, forcibly sterilized women and forced them to undergo abortions, and separated children from their families.
“As a starting point to fulfilling its commitment to uphold and respect human rights, and in line with the preservation of human dignity enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the IOC must uphold and respect the human rights of those who made the uniforms on their backs.”
In the letter, the three lawmakers asked the IOC to make public the assurances the Committee reportedly received from the companies that their products were not produced by forced labor and offer an explanation as to why such assurances could be trusted given the inability to conduct independent audits in the region.
“Chinese sportswear company Anta Sports continues to use cotton produced in the XUAR despite such concerns. A March 2021 South China Morning Post article reported that Anta is the ‘official sportswear uniform supplier’ of the IOC through the end of 2022. Anta will supply the IOC with apparel, shoes, and accessories. In March 2021, Anta reportedly quit the social compliance group Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and further voiced its support for continued use of cotton produced in the XUAR,” the lawmakers wrote.
Last month, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act—legislation that Smith cosponsored with McGovern—was enacted into law (PL 117-78), creating a “rebuttable presumption” that goods sourced in the Xinjiang Region are made with forced labor and are thus prohibited from entering the United States.
Smith, who has chaired 74 congressional hearings on China’s human rights abuses, was targeted with sanctions by the Chinese government in August 2020 for his tireless advocacy and legislative work to promote human rights. He serves as the Ranking Republican on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
The 2022 Winter Games—dubbed the “Genocide Olympics”—are slated to be held in Beijing next month.