France probes claims that retailers used forced Uyghur labor
PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors have opened an investigation into alleged involvement in crimes against humanity based on claims that global retailers, including Uniqlo and the makers of Skechers shoes and Zara clothes, rely on forced labor of minorities in China's Xinjiang region.
The Chinese government on Friday reiterated denials of any forced labor in Xinjiang, and lashed out at what it called interference in its internal affairs.
The investigation was opened last month by the crimes against humanity unit of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office, a judicial official said Friday. The office has special universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes beyond French borders.
The probe was based on a legal complaint filed in France earlier this year by a Uyghur worker in exile and three human rights groups: Sherpa, the Uyghur Institute of Europe and Ethics on the Label Collective.
The investigation doesn’t name a suspected perpetrator, but is aimed at determining who might be at fault and face eventual charges of involvement in crimes against humanity, the judicial official said. Such a procedure is standard under French law. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
The complaint names Japanese retailer Uniqlo, U.S. shoemaker Skechers, French company SMCP and Spanish retailer Inditex, owner of Zara. The rights groups say the companies are benefiting from a Chinese system of repression against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
China has come under criticism and sanctions for detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs and and other Muslim minorities for political re-education in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, and for imprisoning or intimidating into silence those it sees as potential opponents from Tibet to Hong Kong.
Uniqlo said in a...