- Workers linked to a US company were interrogated by Chinese officials in April, sources told Axios.
- The workers were linked to nonprofit Verité, which investigates labor abuses in global supply chains.
- The State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the reports.
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At least seven people working in partnership with a US labor-rights company were interrogated for several days by Chinese officials, Axios reported.
Chinese authorities questioned people working on behalf of Verité in April, Axios reported, citing several unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Verité is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that investigates possible labor abuses in supply chains.
The US State Department was “deeply concerned by reports that supply-chain auditors have been detained, threatened, harassed and subjected to constant surveillance while conducting their vital work in China,” a spokesperson told Axios.
It is not clear whether the people were Verité employees or contractors, or which company’s supply chain they were investigating.
Since 2016, China has detained about 1 million Uyghurs in their homeland of Xinjiang in hundreds of prison camps. It claims they are a terror threat. The US government has criticized China for its suspected use of forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and human-rights groups accuse China of committing “crimes against humanity.” The Chinese government has denied that it uses forced labor in Xinjiang.
Chinese consumers threatened to boycott major clothing brands, including H&M and Nike, after the companies said they would not use cotton produced in Xinjiang.
It is not clear whether the workers were investigating Xinjiang-linked supply chains.
Verité aims to “empower workers to advocate for their rights,” according to its website. It lists Nestlé, Asos, and Disney among its partners and clients.
Verité did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.