Show an ad over header. AMP

Olympic committee gave uniform contract to company with Xinjiang ties

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave a uniform contract for the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to a Chinese textiles company that has an affiliated factory in Xinjiang and that openly advertises its use of Xinjiang cotton.

Why it matters: The opacity of supply chains in China means it may be hard to determine ifOlympic staff will be wearing uniforms made through forced labor.


  • The Chinese government has rolled out a massive forced labor program in Xinjiang as part of what rights groups say is a campaign of forced assimilation and genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities there.
  • The Xinjiang cotton industry, which supplies much of China's cotton, and textiles factories in the region are especially implicated in forced labor.

Details: The IOC announced in September 2019 that Hengyuanxiang (HYX) Group would supply formal uniforms, such as those used in ceremonies, for IOC members and staff.

  • HYX Group has a long-standing relationship with the Chinese Olympic Committee and was a sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
  • In listings on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and JD.com, the company advertises numerous products as containing Xinjiang cotton.
  • HYX Group oversees a consortium of franchise factories. One of these factories is located in Xinjiang, according to the company website.
Screenshot of several Hengyuanxiang listings on Taobao advertising comforters made with "Xinjiang cotton."

Background: Supply chains in China (and elsewhere) are often opaque, making it difficult to trace products made with forced labor.

  • The Better Cotton Initiative, an international cotton sustainability organization, announced in October 2020 that it was pulling out of Xinjiang after determining there was no way to engage ethically there.

"The Olympics should have no association with corporations producing in the Uyghur Region. Partnering with a company that not only sources from the Uyghur Region but boasts about it in its product advertising is morally reprehensible," said Penelope Kyritsis, director of strategic research at Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group, after reviewing information about HYX Group.

  • "At a time when the world is waking up to the horrors taking placing in the Uyghur Region, the IOC appears to be turning a blind eye," Kyritsis said.

What they're saying: An IOC spokesperson told Axios that HYX Group provided the IOC with a certificate of origin for the cotton used in the production of the IOC uniforms and that the certificate indicated the cotton originated from outside China.

  • The spokesperson did not say what body had issued the certificate and did not provide a copy of the certificate at Axios' request.
  • "Given the diverse participation in the Olympic Games, the IOC must remain neutral on all global political issues," the IOC said in a statement provided to Axios.
  • While the IOC is committed to upholding human rights, it "has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country," the statement said.

The controversy surrounding Xinjiang isn't new to the IOC. In December, a coalition representing ethnic minorities in China said in an open letter that the IOC has "turned a blind eye to the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the Chinese authorities."

  • The IOC has maintained that it runs sports events and cannot be held responsible for domestic policies, AP reports.

HYX did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls, and messages sent to its official store on Taobao were not answered.

Chinese companies often advertise that their products are made withXinjiang cotton, which is known for its high quality. In the past, international retailers such as Japanese clothing retailers Muji and Uniqlo did as well.

  • But Xinjiang cotton has become increasingly controversial, both in China and abroad, as evidence has emerged that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs may be working under coercive conditions in the Xinjiang cotton industry amid a wider campaign of forced assimilation.
  • In January, the U.S. issued an import ban on all cotton products made in Xinjiang, citing forced labor allegations.
  • In March, Chinese social media users lambasted H&M, Nike and other major global brands for their previous statements disavowing their use of Xinjiang cotton, and H&M stores were removed from Baidu maps and e-commerce platforms — effectively forcing companies to choose between pleasing Chinese authorities and consumers or heeding global calls to stop sourcing from Xinjiang.

Go deeper:

Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate

The universe of Democratic senators concerned about raising the corporate tax rate to 28% is broader than Sen. Joe Manchin, and the rate will likely land at 25%, parties close to the discussion tell Axios.

Why it matters: While increasing the rate from 21% to 25% would raise about $600 billion over 15 years, it would leave President Biden well short of paying for his proposed $2.25 trillion, eight-year infrastructure package.

Keep reading... Show less

Republican leaders raked in sizable donations from grassroots supporters

Republican leaders turned to grassroots supporters and raked in sizable donations after corporations cut them off post-Jan. 6.

Why it matters: If those companies hoped to push the GOP toward the center, they may have done just the opposite by turning Republican lawmakers toward their most committed — and ideologically driven — supporters.

Keep reading... Show less

CDC: Half of US adults have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of US adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about a third are fully vaccinated, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still on the rise, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during Friday's White House COVID-19 briefing. With cases in many states being driven by variants, public health officials have emphasized the need to ramp up vaccinations.

Keep reading... Show less

Israeli intel agencies believe Vienna talks will lead to U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal

Israeli military intelligence and senior officials in the Mossad briefed a meeting of the nation's security cabinet that talks in Vienna between Iran and other world powers will lead to the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, two officials who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is very concerned about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal and is trying to convince the Biden administration not to take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

Keep reading... Show less

"It hurts": Latino community of 13-year-old killed by police in Chicago reels after shooting

Residents of Little Village, a well-known and predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, are grieving the death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican American boy from the neighborhood who was shot and killed by a police officer on March 29, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Adam Toledo's killing shines a spotlight on police shootings of Latinos, who are killed by law enforcement at the second-highest rate after Black Americans, according to data from the Washington Post.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden adviser warns "there will be consequences" for Russia if Navalny dies

The Biden administration warned the Russian government "that there will be consequences" if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

The big picture: Sullivan also defended President Biden for not mentionining Navalny in a Thursday speech about Russia or in a Tuesday call with Russian President Vladimir Putin,saying the White House aims to deal with the issue "privately and through diplomatic channels."

Keep reading... Show less

Prosecutor on leave for failing to "fully present the facts" after shooting of 13-year-old boy

Cook County prosecutor James Murphy was placed on administrative leave Friday after he implied in court that 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by a police officer in March, was armed when he was shot, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times report.

Why it matters: Videos of the shooting show that Toledo dropped what appears to be a weapon and put his hands in the air a moment before before he was fatally shot. A lawyer for the Toledo family said Thursday that if the teen "had a gun, he tossed it."

Keep reading... Show less

Biden's blinking red lights: Taiwan, Ukraine and Iran

Russia is menacing Ukraine’s borders, China is sending increasingly ominous signals over Taiwan and Iran is accelerating its uranium enrichment to unprecedented levels.

The big picture: Ukraine, Taiwan and Iran’s nuclear program always loomed large on the menu of potential crises President Biden could face. But over the last several days, the lights have been blinking red on all three fronts all at once.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories