Hong Kong garment makers step up security in Bangladesh factories after terrorist attack

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 2016, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 July, 2016, 11:04pm

The latest deadly terrorist attack against foreigners in Bangladesh has sent a chill through major Hong Kong-listed garment manufacturers that operate in the country, with Japanese apparel giant Uniqlo halting all but critical business travel to the world’s second largest garment exporting nation.

Separately, a senior executive from Hong Kong clothing giant Mainland Headwear Holdings, which operates a factory in Bangladesh, told the South China Morning Post that it immediately requested local authorities to step up security procedures around its facility on concerns over the safety of its expatriate staff there.

The moves were made after as many as 18 foreigners, including Japanese, Italians and a US citizen, were killed when a group of Islamist militants stormed an upmarket cafe in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, last Friday.

“At the moment, all Japanese staff are asked to remain home until further notice,” a spokeswoman for Fast Retailing, the Hong Kong-listed multinational fashion retailer of the Uniqlo casual clothing brand, told the Post in an email.

“All business travel except for critical [visits] to Bangladesh are suspended until further notice... we will also keep monitoring the situation closely,” she added.

The Tokyo-based apparel brand has around 140 staff in the South Asian country, including 10 Japanese. “All local and Japanese staff are safe,”the spokeswoman said.

Extremism has been on the rise in the Bangladesh, which over the years has become Asia’s second biggest garment manufacturing base, with its low labour costs luring a growing number of leading international clothing makers, including those from Hong Kong.

Ngan Po-ling, deputy chairman of Mainland Headwear, the world’s only publicly-listed hat manufacturer and seller, said the company was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack and had “immediately informed local police” of the whereabout of its 10 expatriates in the group’s Bangladeshi facility.

“[We have] sent a request to [local authorities] asking them to strengthen security at our production sites, and up till now there have been security officers guarding at the gate of our factory,” Ngan said.

The Hong Kong apparel firm’s Bangladesh plant, opened about three years ago and located on the outskirts of the capital, was still running as normal, Ngan said.

Bangladesh, with its rock bottom labour costs, is overtaking mainland China as the preferred low cost production base for many Hong Kong garment makers.

The South Asian country has declared two days of national mourning following the terrorist attack, which resulted in the deaths of nine Italians, seven Japanese, one US citizen and an Indian, all killed after a 12-hour hostage situation.