An activist investigating a company that manufactures shoes for Ivanka Trump‘s label has been detained by police in China — and two other investigators are missing.
Li Qiang, the executive director of the New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch, told The Washington Post that he lost contact with three activists who were looking into the labor conditions at Huajian shoe factories where some of the shoes for the first daughter’s brand are made.
Two of the investigators were initially told they could not leave China, which Li says is relatively common. Now all three men are presumed to have been detained, according to the Post, which Li says is unprecedented.
“This never happened before in my 17 years’ experience. This is the first time,” Li told the newspaper. “The only reason we think this case is different is that this is Ivanka Trump’s factory.”
The White House and Ivanka Trump’s company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The activists were working with China Labor Watch to publish a report alleging low pay, excessive overtime and other issues at the factory, which has been making shoes for Trump for almost a decade.
An interim report said that employees are forced to work at least 12.5 hours a day, six days a week — at a monthly salary of about $365. In addition, the report alleged there was no safety training despite many employees working with oils and glues.
Hua Haifeng and Li Zhao were investigating labor practices while Su Heng was working undercover inside the factory.
Hua’s wife, Deng Guilian, said she last spoke to her husband on Sunday. She then received a call from the Public Security Bureau on Monday saying he had been detained on suspicion of “illegal monitoring” and using “eavesdropping equipment.”
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Deng has yet to tell the couple’s children, ages 3 and 7, about their father’s plight, telling them he is still away for work.
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She told The Washington Post that she believes her husband’s work is “helpful and meaningful to society” and feared him being imprisoned.
“If he is sentenced for this, I can’t accept it. I can’t accept it’s justice,” Deng said.