Activist investigating Chinese factory making Ivanka Trump shoes arrested

31 May 2017


Police in China have arrested a labour activist who was working undercover, investigating abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes, while two others are missing.

Police are holding Hua Haifeng on suspicion of illegal surveillance, according to his wife Deng Guilian. Hua had worked for labour rights organisations for over a decade and was investigating a factory in southern Guangdong province for New York-based rights group China Labor Watch.

Hua, 36, attempted to travel to Hong Kong last week but was stopped at the border and later questioned by police in Shenzhen, a city on the border with Hong Kong. After his release, he traveled to Jiangxi province and disappeared, before his wife was notified by police.

''I was scared when the police called me, I was shaking with a mix of fear and anger,'' Deng told the Guardian. She added she was worried about her ability to support their two young children as also three elderly relatives without his income.

According to commentators, the case highlighted the political sensitivity of a brand associated with the family of Donald Trump.

The two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, who had investigated a factory in Jiangxi province that assembles Ivanka Trump shoes were still missing today, according to Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch.

"We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release our activists," China Labor Watch said in the email to Reuters.

The reported arrest and disappearances come at a time when labour activists in China are coming under sustained pressure. 

Recent years had seen many labour rights activists intimidated and harassed, temporarily detained, or their movement restricted.

Li said in 17 years of activism, including investigations of hundreds of factories in China, there have been no arrests on suspicion of having committed a crime of members of his group.

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