When it comes to China business, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have no comment

Jared Kushner shakes hands with Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., as Ivanka Trump looks on. Photo via China Daily.
Jared Kushner shakes hands with Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., as Ivanka Trump looks on. Photo via China Daily.

There are more questions than answers regarding the labor conditions and political ramifications of the Chinese supply chain for Ivanka Trump’s namesake brand.

Last May, three investigators from New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW) were detained while researching conditions at a Chinese factory that makes shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand. CLW said it was the first time in its organization’s 17-year history that investigators had been detained, and that they suspected foul play because they were dealing with the U.S. President’s daughter.

In September, the Associated Press researched Ivanka’s supply chain in China, finding that the vast majority of it is untraceable and that information quality has degraded since Ivanka became a senior advisor at the White House. The AP also found that one company receiving export subsidies — “cheating,” as Donald Trump might describe it — had produced thousands of Ivanka Trump handbags as recently as February 2017.

The AP recently published striking stories of the ramifications of the Ivanka crackdown. Deng Guilian, the 36-year-old wife of detained investigator Hua Haifeng, is reportedly working overtime to support her family. “The investigators were released after 30 days, but the bail conditions — restrictions on travel, regular meetings with the police — have made it hard for Hua to find work,” AP reports. Hua “spent his month in jail sleeping on the floor near a bucket that served as the toilet for around 20 men,” the AP details in a separate story.

One young woman, Yu Chunyan, was turned off from labor activism after witnessing Hua’s mistreatment. AP, in another extensively reported story, relays this message exchange between Hua and Yu:

“Do you have to take risks to work in your industry?” [Yu] asked.

Risks depend on politics, he wrote her, and the conditions of the country you live in. “From the beginning, I expected something like this could happen,” he told her. “So it’s not about bad luck. It was going to happen sooner or later.”

“If you had another chance, would you do the same thing?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered. Hua told Yu that he had to live a life that embodied his values. He tried to be encouraging. “I am not saying that everyone has to pay that high a price.”

But Yu had a sense that Hua had run up against forces neither of them could fully grasp, much less defeat. In her mind, she was recalibrating the risks of idealism.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Yu said.

In late November, she left Shanghai to go back and live with her parents.

“I want to be an ordinary person,” she said. “I don’t want to get involved with controversial things.”

China Labor Watch’s founder, Li Qiang, has written to Ivanka Trump five times since his employees were detained, and has received no response. “She does not care about these workers who are making her products, and is only concerned with making profits,” he was quoted by AP as saying. “As a public figure, she has the ability and resources to not only work on labor conditions at her own brand’s factories, but also to help improve labor conditions of the global supply chain as a whole. However, she did not use her influence to do these things.”

The business of Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, is also taking a “no comment” approach to addressing alleged impropriety in its China dealings. The AP reports that following intense criticism over possible ethics violations — it was reported last May that the Kushners were hawking American visas for Chinese investors using the Trump name — Kushner Cos. is “no longer seeking” the $150 million last reported. A spokesperson “did not confirm or deny the move.”