The arrest and disappearance of three labor activists investigating a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-branded shoes in China prompted a call for her brand to cease working with the supplier and raised questions about whether the first family's commercial interests would muddy U.S. leadership on human rights.
"In 17 years (since our organization was founded), we have done countless such investigations and have never had any problems," Li said, noting that he suspects the reprisal may be related to the brand they were investigating.
Li said the activists were probing two factories owned by major footwear producer Huajian Group -- one in the city of Dongguang in southern Guangdong province, the other in Jiangxi's Ganzhou.
"We appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her related brand company to advocate and press for the release of our activists," Li said.
Aside from Ivanka Trump -- the daughter of the U.S. President and also an advisor -- the factory also manufactures products for other overseas brands, including Coach, Nine West, Karl Lagerfled, and Kendall + Kylie.
Ivanka Trump's lifestyle brand imports most of its merchandise from China, trade data show. She and her father both have extensive trademark portfolios in China, though neither has managed to build up a large retail or real estate presence here.
"The eagerness of members of the family to do business in China while airbrushing very troubling human rights and labor rights records of the country is troubling," said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. We'll have to wait and see, he added, "to what extent business is trumping any kind of consideration of the diplomatic capital of the U.S. in promoting human rights, labor rights and democracy."
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks referred questions to Ivanka Trump's brand. The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment for this story Tuesday.