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US Slaps Detention Order on Chinese Garment Maker Over Prison Labor Allegations

Another Chinese garment maker has joined the U.S. naughty list.

On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said, effective immediately, it will detain any merchandise imports coming from Shanghai-based apparel manufacturer Hero Vast Group based on information it says “reasonably indicated the use of prison labor in the production of those garments.”

“As part of its trade enforcement responsibilities, CBP is dedicated to vigilantly monitoring U.S.-bound supply chains for links to forced labor, including prison labor, and will act to deter and disrupt the importation of merchandise made with forced labor practices,” Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade, said. “The use of forced labor is not just a serious human rights issue, but it also brings about unfair competition in our global supply chains. CBP’s goal is to ensure that goods made by forced labor never reach U.S. consumers.”

The move follows an ongoing crackdown on China and its businesses as the Trump administration works to balance a trading relationship it feels has long gone awry.

In July, Commerce Department added 11 Chinese companies to an export blacklist over allegations of forced labor, mass detentions and involuntary genetic analysis in the now controversial Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. One manufacturer, Esquel Group, which saw its Changji Esquel Textile Co. make the list, has contested all allegations, calling them “upsetting” and unfounded.

While details around what’s really happening in Xinjiang remain cloudy, Patagonia said at the end of July that it would cease all sourcing from the region, including both manufacturing and the use of any Xinjiang-originating fibers. Upward of 80 percent of China’s cotton comes from the Xinjiang region, which is why many manufacturing groups have set up operations there and major brands have been sourcing there. Other garment manufacturing countries, like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam, also draw on cotton and yarn from the region to produce their own garments.

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The Withhold Release Order (WRO) that will detain all garments from Hero Vast Group extends to its subsidiaries, which include: Shanghai Hero Vast International Trading Co., Ltd.; Henan Hero Vast Garment Co., Ltd.; Yuexi Hero Vast Garment Co., Ltd.; Ying Han International Co., Ltd.; and Hero Vast Canada Inc. The goods will have to head back where they came from unless Hero Vast Group can prove none of the products were produced with forced labor.

Hero Vast Group has made no public statement on the matter, and a visit to its website returns a 404 ‘not found’ error.