China Labour Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, said on Wednesday that a man has been arrested and two are missing in China after conducting an investigation into a Chinese company making Ivanka Trump-branded shoes.
Hua Haifeng is suspected of wiretapping device using by the police, and has been detained now.
Police called Haifeng's wife and told her, "You only need to know that your husband has been arrested on criminal charges". In his opinion, they are being kept by the police or the factory, so that "there is no access to them".
According to Associated Press, the three activists were due to publish a report next month claiming several labour violations at the factories, including pay below China's minimum wage, excessive overtime and possible misuse of student labour. On April 27, China Labor Watch sent her a letter informing her of the violations and asking her to make sure that the factories made improvements. "But now it has become more political". The trials of three Guangdong labor activists previous year, which resulted in suspended prison sentences, were marked by commentators as the "end of an era" of Chinese labor activism. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was unaware of the situation and declined to make further comments.
Beijing has also taken a stern approach to activism in southern China's manufacturing belt and to human rights advocates generally, sparking a wave of critical reports about disappearances, public confessions, forced repatriation and torture in custody.
But their harsher than usual treatment also raises fears that Chinese authorities are punishing the men for exposing President Trump, whose family business links to China remain under the spotlight.
While Trump in January pledged to "buy American", US Customs bills of lading examined by AFP revealed that more than 50 tonnes of Ivanka Trump-branded items were streaming towards American ports from China even as he spoke.
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Ivanka Trump is officially engaged in the White House, where she was designated as the president's counselor. Hua and the two other activists, Li Zhao and Su Heng, have been unreachable since Sunday. A company statement said it requires subcontractors to "comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions".
AP was unable to reach the other investigators' families. He said that his investigators have never been detained like this before. The parent company is known as Huajian Group.
In a letter sent to Ivanka Trump in April, the group alleged a number of labour violations at two unnamed factories that supplies the Ivanka Trump brand, including that employees were forced to work at least 12-1/2 hours a day for wages below China's legal minimum - a monthly salary equivalent to about one U.S. dollar an hour.
Hua's wife, Deng, said she believed her husband's job was "helpful and meaningful to society".
Mr. Hua and two other labor activists had been undercover at two Chinese factories that make shoes for Ms. Trump and other brands.
Huajian Group and the Ivanka Trump brand did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Nine West did not respond to requests for comment.