Cotton Linked To Chinese Slave Labor Keeps Turning Up In Inspected Shoes And Clothes: REPORT

(GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jake Smith Contributor
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Approximately 27% of tests run on shoes and clothing collected by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in May found links to cotton produced by slave labor in China, according to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents obtained by Reuters.

CBP found that 10 of 37 garments collected tested to be “consistent” with cotton from the Xinjiang region in China, Reuters reported on Friday. The U.S. has banned imports from Xinjiang through the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act due to accusations that the Chinese government uses slave labor and tortures Uygher religious and ethnic minority in the region.

CBP has gathered three separate batches of clothing and shoes for testing since 2022, according to Reuters. Of the total collection, 13 out of 86 items were confirmed to be consistent with Xinjiang. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Veteran-Owned Clothing Company Calls On Other Brands To End Use Of Slave Labor Products)

“The amount of Xinjiang cotton entering the U.S. should be zero,” Laura Murphy, a human rights and contemporary slavery professor at Sheffield Hallam University in England, told Reuters. “So, anything above zero percent should be a real warning.”

(Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

A farmer picks cotton from a field in the Xinjiang region of China in 2007. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

The results were confirmed through isotopic testing by an independent company, which can pinpoint the geographic origin of items such as cotton by assessing the material’s concentration of certain elements, according to Reuters. The FOIA document redacted specific information including the brands of the clothing and footwear tested.

A federal report last year found that approximately 87% of China’s production and 23% of international supply was sourced from cotton from Xinjiang between 2020 and 2021, according to Reuters. A number of major brands, including Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Shein have hired independent testing companies to try and prevent their own products from containing cotton from Xinjiang.

One company, Nine Line Apparel, discovered that a number of their wholesaler’s products contained cotton from Xinjiang. The company’s CEO and Army CPT (ret.), Tyler Meritt, called on other clothing brands to start independently testing their goods.

“Americans would be horrified to discover that apparel they buy that sport religious or patriotic statements might have been manufactured by forced slave labor,” Merritt previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They may be unwittingly buying shirts which were made by imprisoned men and women being persecuted for their faith – all of which is being papered over with cheap prices.”

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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