‘We Have a Right to Know How Our Products Are Made’: Activist Fighting Xinjiang Forced Labor

2020-12-15
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‘We Have a Right to Know How Our Products Are Made’: Activist Fighting Xinjiang Forced Labor France's forward Antoine Griezmann (L) on Oct. 11, 2019 in Reykjavik and the logo of Chinese company Huawei in London on July 14, 2020.
AFP

Pierre Bussiere is a French activist who launched a “shame” campaign to pressure companies that sell products made with forced labor in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017. Amid increasing international scrutiny, detainees have been “graduated” and sent to work at nearby factories as part of an effort to label the camps “vocational centers,” although those held in the facilities regularly toil under forced or coerced labor conditions.

Bussiere recently reached out to French football star and Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann, who has a sponsorship deal with Chinese tech powerhouse Huawei following a report by the Washington Post that said the company is likely testing facial recognition technology to surveil Uyghurs in the XUAR. Griezmann cut ties with the firm last week, citing “strong suspicions” that it is involved in the repression of Uyghurs in the region. Huawei has denied that it supports the use of technology to discriminate against minority groups and has invited Griezmann to discuss its human rights record.

RFA’s Uyghur Service recently spoke with Bussiere about his campaign, his interaction with Griezmann, and his plans for future actions.

RFA: Could you please explain your “shame” campaign? What is it all about?

Bussiere: The idea is to publicly call out brands that benefit from Uyghur forced labor. As citizens and consumers, we have a right to know how our products are made and to refuse that they come from crimes against humanity. Thanks to the pressure of public opinion and citizens, brands are taking public commitments to cut ties with their incriminated suppliers.

RFA: Antoine Greizmann recently renounced his involvement with Huawei on Instagram. How did it happen?

Bussiere: Antoine Griezmann had a powerful and important partnership with Huawei. We could see large ads of him with Huawei products from our social media to the Parisian subway. Last week, when the Washington Post published that Huawei was strongly suspected of having tested AI software with a “Uyghur alert” for the police, we thought about a way to spread the information and to harm the reputation of their brand.

We posted an open letter to Griezmann on @ouighours.news, telling him about these new findings and kindly asking him to step down from this partnership, as a French citizen and one of the greatest French soccer players, and to support Uyghurs' rights. We also took the example of the singer Zara Larsson who ended her partnership with the firm a few months ago. More than 10,000 followers of @ouighours.news tagged him in the comments and shared the post so he could see it. His brother quickly replied and said that they were taking the matter very seriously. Only two days later did Griezmann publish the famous statement, saying that he cut ties with Huawei due to these findings.

RFA: What are your future plans?

Bussiere: We are currently doing the same type of campaign with another international soccer player … We plan to call out all the public figures who have a partnership with this firm.

Reported by Nuriman for RFA’s Uyghur Service.

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