An activist investigating working conditions at a supplier for Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand in China has been detained, his NGO said Wednesday, putting a fresh spotlight on Chinese business activities linked to the US presidential family.
Two other men working on the investigation have been missing since Sunday, according to China Labor Watch, a New York-based non-government-organisation.
“In 17 years (since our organisation was founded), we have done countless such investigations and have never had any problems,” the group’s director, Li Qiang, told AFP.
“But this is the first time we’ve investigated Ivanka Trump (manufacturers), so it may very well be related to the brand.”
Ivanka Trump is US President Donald Trump’s daughter and a White House adviser, whose fashion brand sells clothing, footwear and accessories.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, has joined her as a top aide to the US president and his own family business has come under scrutiny over its financial dealings in China.
Trump lambasted Beijing over its trade practices during the US presidential campaign, but he has established a friendly rapport with President Xi Jinping since they met at the US leader’s Mar-a-Lago resort in April along with Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
“We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release of our activists,” Li said.
Hua Haifeng, 36, has been held by police and accused of illegally using “eavesdropping equipment,” said Li, who rejected the accusation.
The father-of-two was working undercover with the two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, in Jiangxi province.
Deng Guilian, Hua’s wife, told AFP her husband had planned to return to their home for a holiday earlier this week.
She said she was notified of his arrest, but not where he was being held, on Tuesday in a phone call from a Jiangxi public security bureau.
Amnesty International said Hua was detained by mainland police last week after he tried to travel to Hong Kong to publicise the findings of his investigation.
“The trio appear to be the latest to fall foul of the Chinese authorities’ aggressive campaign against human rights activists who have any ties to overseas organisations, using the pretence of ‘national security,'” said William Nee, China researcher at the human rights group.
– ‘Extremely worrying’ –
Li said the activists were probing two factories owned by major footwear producer Huajian Group — one in the city of Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, the other in Jiangxi’s Ganzhou.
They discovered that employees were required to work overtime while being paid less than the minimum wage, according to Li, who alleged that the factory issued fake pay slips that showed wages greater than the workers’ actual compensation.
Aside from Ivanka Trump, the factory also manufactures products for Coach, Nine West, Karl Lagerfeld, and Kendall + Kylie, Li said.
Huajian Group, the Ivanka Trump brand and police in Ganzhou did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the company told AFP in October that it had made about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes over the years.
Huajian president Zhang Huarong also told AFP at the time that the company was moving production to Africa, saying “some manufacturers can’t even survive in China anymore”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing she was “not aware” of the arrest.
But in general, she said, “we also hope that NGOs can also observe China’s laws and not engage in any illegal activities.”
The arrest highlights again the business dealings of the Trump family in China.
Last month, the Kushner family’s real estate company sparked an uproar after his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, headlined events in Beijing and Shanghai to seek more than $150 million in investment in a US luxury apartment complex through a controversial US visa programme.
While Trump in January pledged to “buy American”, US Customs bills of lading examined by AFP revealed that more than 50 tonnes of Ivanka Trump-branded items were streaming towards American ports from China even as he spoke.
Trump has himself sought dozens of trademarks in China.
– Crackdown –
Xi has overseen a tightening of controls on civil society since assuming power in 2012, with arrests that have drawn international condemnation.
Li said on separate occasions this month and in April, Hua and one of the other activists, Li Zhao, had attempted to meet him in Hong Kong but were turned away because they were “suspected of criminal activity.”
Deng said her husband had been a labour activist for more than a decade.
“So many people don’t understand factory workers’ plight,” Deng said. “No matter our financial struggles, I never questioned the importance of my husband’s work.”
Trump unleashes bizarre stream of gobbledygook when reporter asks him to describe his health care plan
President Donald Trump has vowed multiple times over the past two-and-a-half years to unveil his own replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, but so far no actual plan has come to light.
As noted by CNN fact checker Daniel Dale, Trump was asked by a reporter in New Hampshire this week to describe his health care plan, and the president responded with a stream of gobbledygook.
"So, we have a great plan coming out," the president began when asked about his plan. "It's going to be -- if we can take back the House because we're not going to get the Democrats to vote for it, because they're doing Medicare for all, which is going to take away your freedom, take away your doctors, take away everything that you should be able to have, and most importantly, it's going to take away -- we have 180 million people right now that have private insurance and they love it, and all of that's going to be taken away. It's absolute craziness."
Here’s the bizarre truth behind the study Trump is using to claim Google ‘manipulated’ 2.6 million votes in Hillary Clinton’s favor
On Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that according to a “report just out,” Google “manipulated” millions of votes in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. But according to a report by Nick Bastone for Business Insider, Trump’s claims are misleading for a number of reasons.
In his tweet, Trump posted, “Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought!” Bastone, however, reports that the study Trump appeared to be referring to on Twitter was a 2017 study by San Diego-based psychologist Robert Epstein — who, in July, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing with the theme “Google and Censorship Through Search Engines.”
WATCH: White man sprays black teen with hose after hurling racist abuse and claiming to be KKK member
An East Rochester man sprayed a black teenager with a hose during a confrontation that was captured on video.
The man, whose name has not been released, claimed to be a Ku Klux Klan member during an argument with some black and white teenagers outside his home, and he sprayed one 14-year-old boy as he walked away from the white man, reported WROC-TV.
"You shouldn't be f*cking with the Klan," the man says, and walks toward his yard, where he grabs the hose and hurls a racial slur at the boy.