Coffee company Meghan Markle bought oat milk from a company in China’s “police state” province of Xinjiang
A trendy coffee company financially backed by the Duchess of Sussex has imported tons of a key ingredient from a Chinese supplier based in a brutal police state where an alleged genocide is taking place.
Human rights groups have urged Western companies to cut all business ties with China’s Xinjiang region over horrific abuses, including the widespread use of forced labor and the detention of one million Uyghur Muslims in re-education camps, where women are alleged to be systematically raped. .
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Clevr Blends, in which Meghan proudly announced its investment last year because she praised its ethically-sourced ingredients, has received nearly 19 tons of oat milk powder from a company based in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
Hours before the Duchess’s investment was announced, Oprah Winfrey enthusiastically took the company to her millions of followers on social media after receiving a basket of their products from a neighbor, ‘M’.
The Duchess of Sussex proudly announced last year that she was investing in Clevr Blends as she praised the ethically sourced ingredients
The supplier – Xinjiang Haiyan International Trade – is headquartered within four miles of four suspected detention centers, including a possible maximum security prison and an alleged re-education site.
Fashion giants H&M, Burberry and Marks & Spencer have refused to purchase Xinjiang cotton over concerns about forced labor.
And last year, at least five organizations said they would no longer help companies monitor their supply chains in Xinjiang because employees are unable to speak up without fear of retaliation.
There is no evidence that Xinjiang Haiyan used forced labor and The Mail on Sunday understands that the oats were not grown or processed in Xinjiang.
When contacted by an undercover reporter, a representative said the oats are grown and turned into powdered milk in several Chinese provinces, many miles from the Uyghur region.
The MoS was informed that a few months ago, Clevr Blends stopped working with Xinjiang Haiyan and now uses a US supplier that uses Canadian oats.
Obviously, Meghan was unaware of Clevr’s past relationship with Xinjiang Haiyan.
Publicly available shipping records from this newspaper indicate that Clevr received the first of five deliveries of oat milk powder from Xinjiang Haiyan on Oct. 6.
Human rights groups have urged Western companies to cut all business ties with China’s Xinjiang region over horrific abuses, including the widespread use of forced labor and the detention of one million Uyghur Muslims in re-education camps, where women are alleged to be held. systematically raped
And the most recent delivery – a total of 8.8 tons – arrived on February 28, according to US import records from data companies Panjiva and Import Genius.
Campaigners last night warned against dealing with Xinjiang-based companies because of the difficulties in confirming that they do not, if not directly or indirectly, benefit from human rights violations.
Chloe Cranston of Anti-Slavery International said: “It is virtually impossible to be sure that a workplace in the Uyghur region is free from forced labor, so no responsible company would want to deal with an organization based there. The situation is a human rights crisis at a level that we have not seen since World War II and the situation is that companies have to choose whether they want to be on the right side of history or not.
“Any investor – no matter who they are – should hold the companies in their portfolio accountable for their ties to the Uyghur region.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader who sanctioned Beijing last month for speaking out against human rights abuses, said: “ Because Xinjiang is heavily involved in what I call genocide and slave labor, any business with that region is at risk. of being involved in slave labor. So any company doing business there is not allowed to do business in Xinjiang. ‘
Campaigners have warned against dealing with companies based in Xinjiang (pictured) over the difficulty of confirming that they do not, if not directly or indirectly, benefit from human rights violations
Founded by entrepreneurs Hannah Mendoza and Roger Coppola in Santa Barbara, California, Clevr Blends will be selling instant oat milk lattes for £ 20 for a 14-serving package in 2019.
The website states that ‘ethics always comes first with our product’, adding, ‘We prioritize working with smaller, family-owned ingredients suppliers or more transparent supply chains.’
In December, the Duchess of Sussex announced she was investing in the brand, telling Fortune magazine, ‘I am proud to invest in Hannah’s commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and love. [that] takes a holistic approach to wellness. ‘
Clevr’s former supplier Xinjiang Haiyan is located in a business complex in Urumqi. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has tracked down more than 20 suspected detention centers in the city, including four just a short drive from Xinjiang Haiyan’s office on Pudong Street in the city’s Xinshi district.
The company’s website states that all of its products come from ‘certified factories’, although it does not specify where the more than 300 factories and distributors it claims to use are located.
The website also says it has a ‘traceability system’ so that customers can find out where products and raw materials come from.
However, a prominent image on the website of a whitewashed industrial building is a stock used by a range of other Chinese companies, including a PVC window and door supplier, a massage chair manufacturer, and a truck manufacturer.
The Xinjiang Haiyan company logo appears to have been digitally placed on the photo to make it appear as if it is decorated on the top of the building.
An undercover MoS reporter contacted the company and was told by sales director Catherine Zhang that it could deliver 344 tons of oat milk powder per month and that it has customers in the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Oprah Winfrey also connected the company to her millions of followers on social media after receiving a basket of their products from a neighbor
The company’s website, shipping information for Clevr Blends, and an invoice for an oat milk powder order states that the company is located in Urumqi.
The company sells the product on Alibaba, the Chinese version of Amazon, where Xinjiang is listed as ‘place of origin’.
But questioned by the undercover MoS reporter posing as a potential customer, Ms. Zhang said the oats were grown in Inner Mongolia, another Chinese province, and made into powdered milk in the central Chinese city of Xi’an.
In January, the US accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. The proposed legislation being discussed in Congress would ban imports from the region unless it is stated that they were not produced using forced labor – something experts believe is impossible.
Penelope Kyritsis, of the Workers Rights Consortium, a Washington DC watchdog, warned that dealing with a company in Urumqi was a “huge red flag.” “We believe that no company should do business in the Uyghur region,” she said.
Representatives for Meghan did not respond to a request for comment. But sources close to the Duchess of Sussex said she would never partner with an organization that does not adhere to the highest ethical standards and human rights protections.
When this newspaper reached out last week, a representative for Clevr Blends said, ‘I am personally unaware of this matter and am convinced that Clevr would never intentionally hire companies with such practices. Thank you for bringing this to your attention. ‘
Xinjiang Haiyan did not respond to a request for comment.