Men probing Ivanka Trump supplier in China arrested, missing

Donald Trump lambasted China over its trade practices during the US presidential campaign but he has established a friendly rapport with President Xi Jinping since they met at Trump's Mar-a Lago resort in April

"I was scared when the police called me, I was shaking with a mix of fear and anger", Deng told the Guardian, adding she was anxious she would be unable to support their two young children as well as three elderly relatives without his income. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: "They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable".

An Ivanka Trump representative declined to comment.

Hua Haifeng is one of the men working to investigate working conditions in the Chinese factory that produces Ivanka Trump's eponymous shoe line.

The undercover activists were to allege a host of labour violations at the plant, Li said, including paying below China's legal minimum wage, managers verbally abusing workers and "violations of women's rights".

Li said that for almost two decades his organization had conducted investigations into hundreds of factories which manufactured goods for some of the world's most popular brand names, but never before had they encountered this level of scrutiny from authorities, adding that over the past few months the investigators had been blocked from leaving mainland China for Hong Kong and told by police to stop looking into the factory. "Our plan was to investigate the factory to improve the labor situation". "But now it has become more political".

He believes that the police are trying to protect this factory because it makes shoes for a family member of the USA president.

People connected to the Trump administration have repeatedly come under fire for business dealings in China.

Ivanka Trump is US President Donald Trump's daughter and a White House adviser. "The only reason we think this case is different is that this is Ivanka Trump's factory". Li added that a friend had tried to file a missing person report on Li Zhao in Jiangxi, where the factory is located, but was told he had to do so in the man's hometown. The AP notes that they've also been unable to reach the families of the investigators.

"The accusation from Jiangxi police has no factual basis", Li said.

He noted the activists were probing two factories owned by major footwear producer Huajian Group - one in the city of Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, the other in Jiangxi's Ganzhou. Su Heng had been working undercover at the Ganzhou factory since April, Li said. The parent company is known as Huajian Group. A current spokeswoman for the company, Long Shan, did not reply to questions Tuesday or Wednesday morning.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing she was "not aware" of the arrest.

The Huajian factory makes as many as 20,000 pairs of shoes a year for the Ivanka Trump brand.

"We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release our activists", he said. A White House spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

He also rejects the police charges that Hua Haifeng and his colleagues were using illegal surveillance gear in the Huajian shoe factory.

Li said his investigators had documented long working days, the longest stretching 18 hours, from 7:10 a.m.to 1:30 a.m. next day. They were working to confirm evidence suggesting that student interns - some of whom allegedly quit in protest - were putting in excessive hours on work unrelated to their field of study, in violation of Chinese law, Li said.

"It is the role of the police to prevent that kind of independent investigation", said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. Deng was not allowed to speak with Hua. She wants to keep from upsetting them.

"My son suddenly burst into tears".

"I was shocked and freaked out", Deng Guilian said.

Hua's wife told AP that she had not told their children that their father had been arrested but that when she told her young son that his father would soon return, her son said "Papa was taken away by a monster".

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