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WASHINGTON – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has failed to offer credible evidence that there are no products made with forced labour in the thousands of items of Olympic-branded merchandise sold or worn in connection with the Beijing Winter Games. The Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour claims the IOC is relying on “China to Investigate itself.”

The Coalition has called on the IOC to immediately disclose what, if any, specific due diligence steps it has taken to identify and eliminate any material produced with Uyghur forced labour in Olympic-branded merchandise.

The Coalition brings together over 400 organisations from 40 countries and includes family members of those unjustly held in China’s brutal mass detention camps. The Beijing Winter Games begin on February 4. 

“The IOC cannot be allowed to let so-called neutrality override morality when it comes to slave labour,” said Zumretay Arkin, World Uyghur Congress program and advocacy manager. “Olympic leaders must take responsibility for labour and human rights at a time when the reality of forced labour of the Uyghur people is now widely recognized and condemned around the world.”  

The US Congress recently passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act on December 16 and U.S. President Joe Biden signed it into law on December 22. The law bans imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Uyghur Region”).

The IOC’s official sportswear uniform supplier Anta Sports is among many apparel companies around the world that source cotton from the Uyghur Region. In March 2021, Anta Sports defiantly declared: “We have always bought and used cotton produced in China, including Xinjiang cotton, and in the future we will continue to do so.”

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region engaged the IOC privately for eight months in 2021 to seek information and assess assurances about due diligence steps that the IOC may have taken to ensure that Olympic-branded merchandise is not made with forced Uyghur labour. On December 21, the IOC rejected the Coalition’s proposed terms for substantive, constructive, and mutually respectful two-way dialogue. 

“With one month to go before the start of the Beijing Winter Games, the icy indifference of the IOC to labour and human rights is absolutely chilling,” said Bennett Freeman, a member of the Coalition Steering Committee, co-founder of the Cotton Campaign, and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, who led the Coalition’s nearly eight months of efforts to engage the IOC. “Our patience and persistence were met with intransigence and arrogance. The global outrage that the Beijing Olympics will generate may yet disrupt the IOC enough to force its fundamental reform.” 

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