China frees on bail activists who probed Ivanka shoe factories

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Three activists detained while investigating Chinese factories that have made shoes for Ivanka Trump's brand have been released on bail awaiting trial, their rights group said on Wednesday.

China Labor Watch said the families of Su Heng, Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng had been notified by police in Ganzhou in southeast China they could go to the city and pay bail for their release. It did not say what charges the three were facing.

Calls by Reuters to Ganzhou police went unanswered, and a spokeswoman for the Ivanka brand declined to comment.

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The activists' lawyers said their actions were not criminal and they hoped Chinese courts would conduct a fair trial, the U.S.-based China Labor Watch said.

The group said that between March and May, the three activists entered the Dongguan Huajian and Jiangxi Huajian factories, which have manufactured shoes for Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter. Two took jobs in the plants.

They gathered video, pictures and evidence that showed that workers at the factories were exploited, with long working hours and ill treatment by management, China Labor Watch said. The three were detained by police in late May.

Ivanka Trump's prominence meant she should be able to check on her suppliers and influence them, Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, said in the statement.

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"However, based on what we have seen so far, she has left us very disappointed. She has set a bad example," Li said.

On June 5, the U.S. State Department called for the immediate release of the three activists.