Activist Seeks Trumps' Help in Freeing Labor Investigators in China

Li says he investigated the Huajian shoe factory precisely because it was making shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand, and he thought he could leverage that to help the workers.

Li Qiang, the group´s executive director, said Hua was detained in Jiangxi province on suspicion of illegally using eavesdropping equipment.

The three men had been investigating a factory which makes shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand and other Western brands, he said in an email. And, Ivanka Trump HQ faced online backlash after the brand tweeted a recipe for champagne popsicles on Memorial Day - something that many found insensitive. He was reportedly arrested on the basis of illegal surveillance.

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"But this is the first time we've investigated Ivanka Trump (manufacturers), so it may very well be related to the brand".

On Tuesday, police in the province called Hua's wife, Deng Guimian. But the group says that over the weekend, two of its investigators in China disappeared and one was arrested there, raising yet another set of questions regarding the ethics of having a presidential administration with extensive business interests in foreign countries.

Bradsher also notes that the Ivanka Trump brand has declined to comment on this story, and that a spokesperson for Marc Fisher Footwear, the company that makes Ivanka Trump shoes, has claimed a lack of awareness of the labor allegations and promised to look into the matter.

The activists took jobs between March and May at two factories run by the Huajian Group - one in Jiangxi and the other in Guangdong - in order to investigate labour practices at the company, Li said.

And while President Trump made a pledge in his January inauguration speech to "buy American and hire American", US Customs bills of lading examined by AFP revealed that more than 50 tonnes of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, bags and clothes were steaming towards American ports from China even as he spoke. The two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng are missing.

Another difference is the target of China Labor Watch's investigation: a brand owned by the daughter of the president of the United States. She and her father both have extensive trademark portfolios in China, though neither has managed to build up a large retail or real estate presence here.

"There's never been any problems before", Hua's wife, Deng Guimian, who relies exclusively on her husband's income to support their two young children and three elderly relatives, told Bloomberg by phone Wednesday.

Ivanka Trump's clothing line came under fire for its questionable pieces and high price tags earlier this year when the president and his wife were seen hawking it.

Huajian representatives could not be immediately reached for comment at its factories in Ganzhou and Dongguan.

  • Leroy Wright