BEIJING — Three men detained while investigating working conditions at factories that make shoes for Ivanka Trump’s brand have been released on bail.
The men — Su Heng, Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng — were detained in late May while working on a report for China Labor Watch. Chinese authorities have said little about their case, although a story in a Communist Party-controlled news outlet alleged they were being held on suspicion of stealing commercial secrets.
On Wednesday, the three investigators walked out of a police station in the southeastern city of Ganzhou. They said they had been released pending trial. “China Labor Watch hopes the court will provide the investigators with a fair trial,” the group said in a statement.
The detention of the men called increased attention to the Trump family’s global business dealings, renewing questions about labor conditions at Trump-linked factories as well as concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
It was not clear why the investigators were detained, or why they were released.
China Labor Watch has investigated violations at Chinese factories that make items for U.S. companies for years.
The group’s founder, Li Qiang, told The Washington Post in May that this was the first time his investigators had been detained.
“This never happened before in my 17 years’ experience,” he said then. “The only reason we think this case is different is that this is Ivanka Trump’s factory.”
Earlier that month, the organization issued an interim report on working conditions at factories that made Ivanka Trump-branded shoes. The report alleged that people employed by Huajian Group, a company that makes shoes for Trump and others, are forced to work at least 12½ hours a day and at least six days a week at a monthly salary of about 2,500 yuan, or $365.
Li said his investigators found that workers were sometimes given only one or two days off per month. The factories offered no safety training, even though many employees come into contact with oils and glues, they reported.
Huajian has contested the findings.
The U.S. and Chinese sides have taken a careful approach when discussing the case.
In the aftermath of the detentions, activists called on Ivanka Trump to speak out on behalf of the detainees, but she has made no public statement. Nor, for that matter, has the White House.
In early June, Alicia Edwards, a State Department spokeswoman, expressed “concern” about the detentions, noting that labor groups “have been instrumental in helping American companies understand the conditions in their supply chains.”
China’s Foreign Ministry rebuffed questions about the matter, saying it was a domestic issue.
The Paper, a news outlet controlled by the Shanghai city government, published a detailed story that claimed the men were held on suspicion of stealing commercial secrets and, although they had yet to be charged, had “confessed.”
The Paper alleged that the men took jobs at factories and then used “hidden camera watches” and other gadgets to illegally gather information and sell it abroad. It included a picture of evidence seized by police: two watches, some thumb drives, a battery and a cellphone.
Luna Lin and Shirley Feng contributed to this report.