Hua Haifeng, a labor activist working on behalf of the advocacy group China Labor Watch, has been detained by Chinese police on suspicion of illegal eavesdropping. Recently, he had been working undercover at the Huajian shoe factory in Dongguan, China. The factory produces shoes for a number of brands, including heels for the Ivanka Trump shoe line. Haifeng’s incarceration comes as concerns rise over a Chinese crackdown on advocacy groups in the country.
But Haifeng wasn’t the only activist who has disappeared. Reports say two other activists investigating factories that produce shoes for Ivanka also managed to disappear over the weekend. All three were trying to determine whether the labor conditions at the two factories were humane or not. According to investigators (via the AP), workers are being subjected to excessively long hours and low pay.
China has recently been intensifying pressure on advocacy groups in the country in response to a stagnating economy and increasing labor unrest. Several activists have been arrested in the last year, but so far none had been associated with China Labor Watch. Li Qiang, the director of China Labor Watch, has suggested that the unusual arrests of his men may have somehow been associated with looking into factories associated with president Trump’s family, but no evidence has pointed to that as of yet.
While Trump has frequently criticized China in the press, it still stands that he has 75 trademarks in the country, and that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is attempting to raise money for a real estate venture in China from Chinese investors. Obviously, Ivanka Trump also utilizing multiple factories to help manufacture some of her products as well.
It doesn’t seem very likely that Trump would have done anything as crazy as deliberately request the incarceration of the activists, but the situation still brings up the question of whether Trump would be willing to do anything to try and improve labor conditions in China. After all, the reason Ivanka utilizing Chinese factories is because of their relative cheapness and intervention may cause her brand’s overhead to increase.
The issues at play largely revolve around how many potential business ties the president and his family still have to countries all over the world. Kushner’s recent investor meetings in China reportedly included offers of American visas for anybody willing to invest $500,000. The whole thing is shady and highlights the problems of having a president who is still unwilling to truly give up his business ties.
Ivanka and the White House have yet to comment, but a spokeswoman for Marc Fisher Footwear—which licenses shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand manufactured in China—said they would look into it immediately. It’ll be interesting to see where all of this goes, but again, we really shouldn’t have an administration with this many conflicts of interest in the first place. They just continue to stack up.