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BCI's professionalism cast in doubt

China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-01 09:23

A cotton picking machine moves in a cotton field in Dolatbag town of Bachu county, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Oct 30, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Better Cotton Initiative, a Switzerland-based organization, is in the news because its false claim of "forced labor" in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has prompted several international apparel brands to boycott Xinjiang cotton.

However, when a journalist from Xinjiang visited BCI's headquarters in Switzerland, he was denied an interview. BCI staff, from across the reception counter, asked him to visit a website for details. The website had a phone number registered in India, but it did not connect him to the BCI headquarters.

Surely, the BCI lacks professionalism. It claims to "make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector's future", yet many professionals say some of the standards are so low that China has long abolished them. Ironically, this "better cotton" organization stopped attesting Xinjiang cotton based on some dubious reports in the United States and Australia.

Reports of "forced labor" in Xinjiang are at best laughable, especially because machines are increasingly being used in the cotton industry there.

Last week, the BCI's Shanghai unit claimed its team has been monitoring Xinjiang's cotton industry since 2012 and not found a single instance of "forced labor", but the BCI's headquarters has turned a deaf ear to its Shanghai unit. So much for its professionalism and ethics.

BCI's official website lists the US Agency for International Development as a funding partner. Although it claims to save lives and alleviate poverty, it is common knowledge that USAID serves the US' interests by interfering in the internal affairs of the countries and regions that receive its aid. Can such an organization be impartial?

Besides, BCI council chairperson Marc Lewkowitz is the CEO of Supima in the US, which is competing with Xinjiang cotton. No wonder the BCI hates Xinjiang cotton so much.

Also, the BCI has never made public what factors are its standards based on and how it makes its decisions. It has just rented a few offices in an office building in Geneva. More importantly, it calls itself an NGO but each of its over 2,000 members have to pay an annual membership fee ranging from €6,000($7,026) to €45,000. Where is all that money going?

The BCI's credentials are not above suspicion. It is absurd for such an organization to slander Xinjiang cotton.

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