Li-Ning Accused of Using Forced Labor in North Korea to Manufacture Products

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Chinese sneaker and sportswear brand Li-Ning is under fire for suspicion of forced labor in North Korea. Footwear News revealed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be seizing all Li-Ning products at U.S. ports of entry until further notice.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), North Korean goods are prohibited from entering the U.S. without proof that forced labor was not involved in production. After investigators discovered that Li-Ning uses North Korean labor to manufacture their products, the CBP seizing sanctions were put into place, effective as of March 14, 2022.

“CAATSA is yet another tool in CBP’s trade enforcement arsenal that allows us to uphold the fundamental value of human dignity and to ensure the goods that enter the United States are free from forced labor,” said AnnMarie Highsmith, CBP Office of Trade executive assistant commissioner in a statement.

Li-Ning is relatively new on the scene as the Beijing-based company has tried to establish brand presence within the American market over the last decade. In 2010, the company opened its first American showroom and retail store in Portland, Oregon. Then in 2012, Li-Ning signed an eight-year $10 million contract with NBA star Dwayne Wade, which led to a lifetime contract that Wade later signed in 2020. This same year, Li-Ning signed a multi-year deal with Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler. The year after, Erik Ellington would become Li-Ning’s first ever signed skater which resulted in the company’s skateboarding line in 2021.

While Li-Ning might still seem meager amongst industry giants like Nike and adidas, the company has experienced significant growth in China. A report from The NPD Group analyzed the Chinese footwear market in Q3 of 2021 and found that consumers in China are starting to prefer their own national brands, such as Anta Sports and Li-Ning, opposed to other international sportswear leaders. This data is especially interesting considering that Chinese consumers have held boycotts against Nike, adidas, and other Western brands that have refused to source cotton from the country’s Xinjiang region — also due to forced labor allegations among the Uyghur population in that area.

At this time, Li-Ning has not made a statement in response to the accusations that the company uses forced labor in North Korea. We will update this story as it continues to develop. For more sneaker news and release dates, follow @NiceKicks on Twitter.

Lead image provided by AP for FeatureChina

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