The expansion of a Zara clothing store in France was blocked over a probe into whether its parent company Inditex benefits from the use of forced labour of Uyghurs in China, officials said Monday.
Zara France wanted to double the surface area of its shop in the centre of the southern city of Bordeaux, but on November 9 the regional commission charged with examining the project voted against it.
The commission members who voted against the expansion invoked the existence of the probe into whether the Spanish firm benefits from the use of forced labour by members of the Uyghur minority by its Chinese suppliers.
“It was a political decision by us,” said Alain Garnier, one of the elected officials on the commission.
“We wanted to send a strong signal by blocking the expansion of stores that don’t have sufficient control over their suppliers,” he added.
French magistrates opened in June an inquiry into allegations by rights groups that four fashion firms including Zara-owner Inditex profited from forced labour of the Uyghur minority in China.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
Inditex disputed at the time that it had used cotton from Xinjiang and said it has strict traceability controls in place.
“With the impact of fast fashion on the environment and suspicions about the use of forced labour of Uyghurs, Zara’s project seemed to us to breach the sustainable development criteria” taken into consideration by the commission, said another member, Sandrine Jacotot.
Jacotot, who is also Bordeaux’s deputy mayor for commerce, said it was now up Zara to appeal the decision on the national level “to explain the company respects” the sustainable development criteria.
© Agence France-Presse