A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for assurances that uniforms for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Games are not made using forced labor, according to a Jan. 12 letter (pdf).
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China asked IOC President Thomas Bach for further information about its contracts with uniform supplier Anta Sports and Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group).
“There is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor,” said commission leaders Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), and ranking member Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).
Both Chinese companies, which will tailor sportswear and formal uniforms for athletes and IOC members, had previously stated that they use cotton from Xinjiang, where a large Uyghur Muslim population resides.
“Cotton produced in the XUAR [Xinjiang] is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there,” the letter reads.
From bedding to pairs of socks, search results on China’s e-commerce platforms show textiles company HYX Group openly advertises the use of Xinjiang cotton. “High-quality Xinjiang long-staple cotton with more than 3,000 hours of sunlight,” is one such description listed in product details.
HYX sponsored the Tokyo Games last year and the 2008 Beijing Olympics before that, and Anta was first Chinese supplier of sportswear uniforms to the IOC since the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, said the committee.
The 2022 Beijing Games will run from Feb. 4 to 20.
Despite a “certificate of origin” that HYX Group presented to the IOC, stating that the cotton used came from outside China, the lawmakers doubt its credibility.
The commissioners asked the IOC to make public “assurances” from the two companies and explain why such guarantees can be trusted, given the inability to conduct independent…