The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has lodged a complaint against several retailers, including Aldi, Lidl, C&A and Hugo Boss, for allegedly profiting from forced labour by the Uyghur population in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The Berlin-based organisation accuses the retailers of directly or indirectly facilitating and profiting from forced labour practices in the cotton industry in Xinjiang. "It is unacceptable that European governments criticise China for human rights violations, while European companies may be profiting from the exploitation of the Uyghur population", ECCHR's Miriam Saage-Maass explained. "It is high time that those responsible in the companies are held accountable if suspicions of forced labour are confirmed."
A Lidl spokesman said the accusations were "based on old supplier lists and related to past orders or periods of time". The company further stressed its "zero tolerance" policy towards forced labour and child labour, Reuters writes.
According to Hugo Boss, all company standards and values were respected in producing its goods, and there have been no legal violations. "We, therefore, reject all other assertions made by ECCHR", a spokesperson stated.
Earlier this year, Sherpa, another organisation, filed a similar complaint in France against Uniqlo and Zara, among others. This complaint led to a judicial investigation by the authorities in July.