Hua Haifeng is one of the men working to investigate working conditions in the Chinese factory that produces Ivanka Trump’s eponymous shoe line. As of Tuesday, reports the Associated Press, he has been arrested, while two of his colleagues are missing.
Hua’s wife, Deng Guilian, says that police called her Tuesday afternoon and informed her that her husband was accused of “illegal surveillance,” while also reassuring her that “he didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.” The two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng are missing.
ABC News reports that New York City-based nonprofit China Labor Watch was planning on publishing a report “alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns.” Now, executive director Li Qiang says that he lost contact with the men over the weekend, leading him to believe that they’re in custody somewhere, held either by the factory of the police.
According to Li, his nonprofit has been investigating working conditions at factories in China for 17 years without attracting this level of scrutiny from the state. As he tells it, the worst his investigators ever faced was a short time in police detention or being removed from the factory they were investigating. In addition to the rather alarming news that two men are missing and one has been arrested with no details being released to his wife, ABC News reports the following:
Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng were blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong in April and May — something that had never happened to his colleagues before, Li said. Hua Haifeng was stopped at the border May 25 and later questioned by police, Li said. During their final phone conversation on Saturday, Hua told Li that police had asked him to stop investigating the Huajian factory — another turn of events that Li said was unprecedented.
The men had reportedly seen “excessive overtime, with working days sometimes stretching longer than 18 hours, and a base salary below minimum wage” as well as investigating claims that student interns in the factory were working too many hours in work unrelated to their field of study, which is a direct violation of the law.
News of Hua’s arrest and the disappearance of Li Zhao and Su Heng come as China’s Communist Party cracks down on activism and human rights violations as reported by organizations like China Labor Watch. Another key difference which you surely picked up on by now: China Labor Watch is investigating a brand owned by Daddy’s little girl, Ivanka Trump.