Chinese Activist Says He Was Arrested for Investigating Ivanka Trump Factory

The Chinese activist who made global headlines for his undercover probe at Ivanka Trump’s shoe factory in China and his subsequent arrest by Chinese law enforcement spoke up for the first time after his release.

He told the South China Morning Post that the factory’s ties to the Ivanka Trump brand was possibly a “factor that attracted police interest,” though he can’t confirm it.

Since May, Hua Haifeng had been detained by local police in Ganzhou, China and was released on bail last month.

Prior to his arrest, Hua was working with two other colleagues who were all employed by the New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch as undercover workers at two shoe factories belonging to Huajian Group. The company is said to be a major supplier of the Ivanka Trump brand shoes. It also reportedly manufactures products for other fashion brands including Coach, Kylie + Kendall, Nine West and Karl Lagerfeld.

Hua and his colleagues had allegedly found evidence of the terrible working conditions and labor abuses at the factory and published a report on the China Labor Watch website.

photo: ivankatrump.com

The Chinese authorities accused Hua and his colleagues of “spying” and “using other monitoring equipment.” But Hua claims there may have been more to it. The labor right activists revealed to South China Morning Post that he had been conducting labor rights investigations in China for 14 years with multiple encounters with law enforcement, but that none resulted in detention.

China Labor Watch’s founding director Li Qiang underscored Hua’s point in telling the South China Morning Post that in the organization’s 17-year history, Hua’s arrest marked the first head-on confrontation with the police.

“But this is the first time we’ve investigated Ivanka Trump [suppliers],” Li said, “so it may very well be related to the brand.”

His arrest also came about during a time when the relationship between the government and human rights groups and activists has seen heightened aggravation. During his detention, it was reported that he was interrogated 16 times for up to three hours at a time. He was also placed in a holding cell with only a bed, next to which was a basket to urinate in.

Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand had come under fire on several occasions this year since her father’s election as U.S. President. The company that licenses Ivanka Trump shoes told CNNMoney last month that the brand would look into China Labor Watch’s allegations.

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Fashion, Policy