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Zara blocked in France over Uyghur forced labour probe

By RFI
Europe © AFP/Loïc Venance
NOV 30, 2021 LISTEN
© AFP/Loïc Venance

The expansion of a Zara clothing store in France was blocked over a probe into whether its parent company Inditex benefits from the use of forced labour of Uyghurs in China.

Zara France wanted to double the surface area of its shop in the centre of the western city of Bordeaux, but on the 9th of November, the regional commission charged with examining the project voted against it.

"It was a political decision by us," said Alain Garnier, one of the elected officials on the commission.

"We wanted to send a strong signal by blocking the expansion of stores that don't have sufficient control over their suppliers," he added.

The commission members who voted against the expansion invoked the existence of the probe into whether the Spanish firm benefits from the use of forced labour by members of the Uyghur minority by its Chinese suppliers.

French magistrates opened an inquiry in June into allegations by rights groups that four fashion firms including Zara-owner Inditex profited from forced labour of the Uyghur minority in China.

Inditex disputed at the time that it had used cotton from Xinjiang and said it has strict traceability controls in place.

Also, two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Sherpa and Ethique, filed a complaint in France in early April against multinationals for concealment of forced labour and crimes against humanity.

United Nations experts and rights groups estimate that over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China's western Xinjiang region.

"With the impact of fast fashion on the environment and suspicions about the use of forced labour of Uyghurs, Zara's project seemed to us to breach the sustainable development criteria," said another member, Sandrine Jacotot.

Jacotot, who is also Bordeaux's ecologist deputy mayor for commerce, said it was now up to Zara to appeal the decision on the national level "to explain the company respects" the sustainable development criteria.

(with AFP)

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