China on Tuesday rejected a request from the U.S. State Department to release three activists who were arrested while investigating a company that produces shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand.
“Other nations have no right to interfere in our judicial sovereignty and independence,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press conference Tuesday. “The police found these people illegally possessed secret cameras, secret listening devices and other illegal monitoring devices.”
The three men were working with China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, which was reportedly planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay and excessive overtime use by the Chinese company.
The company, The Huajian Group, makes 10,000 to 20,000 pairs of shoes for the first daughter’s brand each year.
The Associated Press reported that one detainee’s wife was herself arrested and questioned for hours about her contacts with foreign media before being released.
The U.S. State Department called for the release of the three activists on Monday, saying “we urge China to release them immediately and otherwise afford them the judicial and fair trial protections to which they are entitled.”
If found guilty of using secret recording devices, the three activists face sentences of up to two years in prison.
In April, China Labor Watch sent a letter to Ivanka Trump asking her to work to improve conditions in her Chinese factories. Trump’s brand has so far declined to comment on the arrest of the activists.
In a statement to The Hill, the DNC blasted Ivanka Trump and the Trump administration for manufacturing shoes abroad while Trump pushed a message of ‘Buy American, Hire American.’
“China has confirmed it will not release the human rights workers detained after investigating Ivanka Trump’s shoe factory, but Ivanka’s company has stayed silent about the detainment and mistreatment of workers at the factories they use,” a DNC spokeswoman said. “At the least, Ivanka’s company should switch suppliers, and the Trumps should stop hypocritically telling corporations to ‘buy American and hire American’ while they continue to knowingly take advantage of workers abuses abroad.”