‘Corrected’ Muji story by Reuters emerges from the shadow of World Uyghur Congress
Published: Mar 26, 2021 07:33 PM
A Muji store in a shopping mall in Shanghai on Wednesday Photo: Xie Jun/GT

A Muji store in a shopping mall in Shanghai  Photo: Xie Jun/GT

Reuters on Thursday said in a report that casual brand Muji's parent company in Japan was deeply concerned as it found "significant issues" of forced labor in its factories in China's Xinjiang. 

However, in an exclusive reply to the Global Times just ahead of the Reuters report, Muji China stated clearly that the company uses Xinjiang cotton.

Interestingly, Reuters soon corrected its report to say Muji's parent company found "no significant issues" of forced labor in Xinjiang.

The Global Times found no official statement Thursday from the company in Japan, and that the Reuters report might have connections with the World Uyghur Congress which has been dedicated to smearing China's Xinjiang policies.

In a report on Thursday titled "Japan's Muji store operator says 'deeply concerned' about forced labour reports in China," Reuters cited a statement from Ryohin Keikaku Co, owner of the Muji brand goods store chain, saying it had conducted inspections on factories in the Xinjiang region that supply its goods and found significant issues.

The report also said the company was working to ensure compliance with EU and US laws and regulations regarding human rights in Xinjiang.

However, Reuters soon added the word "no" to the paragraph, and corrected the sentence to "Ryohin Keikaku Co said in a statement it had conducted an audit of factories in the region that supply its goods, saying it found no significant issues."

The Global Times checked the Muji website and did not find such a statement. So where did this statement come from? Reuters replied to Global Times on Friday that the team is looking into this and will reply as soon as they can.

The Global Times found that the content in the Reuters report was highly similar to a statement circulating on the Internet, which can be traced back to the website of Japan Uyghur Association, an affiliate of the World Uyghur Congress, which has participated in many activities advocating "Xinjiang independence."

The anti-China think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), claimed in a report released on February 22, 2020 that the Chinese government facilitated the mass transfer of Uygurs and other ethnic minority citizens from Xinjiang to factories across China as "forced labor."

Uygurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen, as well as Uniqlo, Muji and Panasonic, the report said. 

The Japan Uyghur Association sent a questionnaire to the Japanese companies mentioned in the ASPI report on April 30, 2020 and published the companies' responses online.

Their questionnaire contained three questions: First it asked whether the companies have conducted an investigation on the relationship between the product supply chain and forced labor, and second, with regard to the ASPI report, it asked what should be done in terms of supplier selection and human rights due diligence.

And last, it asked if a product is discovered to be produced by "forced labor," will the manufacturing and supply of the product in China be stopped.

Muji's operator said in the report that it was aware of the relevant reports of "forced labor" in Xinjiang, and expressed "deep concern" over it. It said the company had conducted an audit of Xinjiang factories that supply products and found no significant issues at present. 

It also said that the company's cotton is from China and other parts of the world.

Fast Retailing Co, operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing brand, also said in the report that the company has no production facilities in Xinjiang. If "forced labor" mentioned in the report is discovered, the production and supply of commodities will be stopped.

It is worth noting that the formulation of the relevant reports of Japanese companies and the Japanese translation of the summary of the ASPI report were jointly completed by the Japan Uyghur Association and the international human rights NGO Human Rights Now. 

The Global Times did not find this report on the official websites of Muji or Fast Retailing, and the authenticity of the report can not be confirmed.

Muji China told the Global Times exclusively on Thursday that the company is using Xinjiang cotton. The company purchases high-quality cotton from all over the world including China, India and Turkey. At present, a large number of Xinjiang cotton products are still on sale on the official website of Muji.

On Friday, the Global Times found a TV in a Muji store in Beijing's Haidian district broadcasting that the cotton is from Yili, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 

"Chinese people have the right to express their feelings. They do not accept that foreign companies earn money from them on the one hand and smear China on the other," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Thursday.