Anonymous people of the Silk Road

We are a group of European-based journalists working together to unravel a modern form of slavery: the use of cheap labor from China in the “fast fashion” production industries in Italy. This project aims to uncover the stories of these anonymous Chinese people who travel vast distances only to be kept in poor working conditions. We will build on previous investigations into human rights violations and transnational human trafficking that have already been conducted. We will analyze the impact of this type of labor on the industry and more specifically on Italy’s economic landscape.

We will also look at other forms of possible criminality related to China's Belt and Road development and infrastructure initiative.

MF Through a grant from the European Commission (EC), we will match every amount you donate, up to 2,000 euros total. The total will be regularly updated to reflect the EC's contribution.

About the project in Italian

Siamo un team di giornalisti con base in Europa che lavorano insieme per svelare una moderna forma di schiavitù: l'uso di manodopera cinese a basso costo nelle industrie di moda italiane. Il nostro progetto ha vuole rivelare le storie di quanti hanno attraversato il mondo intero solo per lavorare senza alcun diritto, nemmeno quello di un’identità. Il lavoro segue il solco di precedenti indagini condotte sulle violazioni dei diritti umani e sulla tratta internazionale di esseri umani. Quello che vogliamo mostrare è l'impatto che questo sistema disumano ha non solo su quanti ne sono soggetti, ma anche su tutta la catena del pronto moda italiano e più in generale sul mercato interno dell’Unione Europea, il tutto alla luce della partnership siglata dall’Italia per la Nuova Via della Seta e della tentacolare attività della mafia cinese sul suolo italiano.

Campaign pledges are handled by Stripe, a globally trusted payment provider used by Apple, Google, and thousands of other companies. We do not collect or save any payment details, as this is all done via Stripe's automatic payment system.

raised €4 740 out of €6 130

-59 days remaining


Our group is made up of professional and student journalists based in Greece, Poland, and Italy. We aim to create a series of reports focusing on the exploitation of Chinese workers in Prato, Italy and potentially elsewhere in Europe.

This project aims to trace the trade routes and stories of the Wu Ming "anonymous" Chinese people who leave their homeland for Europe to work as low-cost workers in the fast fashion production chains in the major commercial districts of Italy. Starting with the individual stories of these workers and potential human rights violations, our research will expand out to discuss the impact of this labor force on the local company, including in the context of the Belt and Road initiative, the mammoth international development plan launched by the Chinese government.

Through primary material collected on the ground, including interviews with experts in politics and inside the fashion industry, Chinese workers, as well as Italian and Chinese businessmen, we will try to understand the severity of the exploitation happening among the Chinese workforce, largely unknown to all of those around the world who are purchasing the clothing.

Who are we?

We are experienced in working in a collaborative capacity, and we have already been published in leading national and international publications. We have chosen to remain anonymous until the end of this project given its highly sensitive theme and the potential safety risks for members of the team. [Transitions knows the identity of the members of the team and has carefully screened this application].

The group is composed of two freelance journalists from Australia and Poland and two freelance journalists who have studied at Aristotle University and are from Italy and Barbados. Half of them are Chinese speakers and several members of the team have reported on international human rights issues for over a decade and have experience in investigative projects.

Why now?

The Chinese government’s infiltration into the Italian economy has been widely discussed in recent years. Panorama, a leading Italian investigative magazine, has also written about the links between both the Chinese and Italian mafias involving human trafficking and money-laundering. But such stories have only just scratched the surface. They have not asked the tough questions, such as whether the Italian authorities are actually taking any measures to deal with the situation. Our investigation aims to dig deeper and build on our preliminary research on Chinese migrants' impact on the major Italian fashion districts. Part of that means better understanding the identity of those coming to Europe at great financial and personal risk.

Why crowdfunding?

When we pitched this story to Italian media, they only wanted a sensationalist take on the topic. We don’t want to take that approach, but have instead planned a methodical, serious investigation that will leave no stone unturned and take the major commitment of each member of our team. It’s also important to us that the project’s results reach beyond Italy to a European audience, and Press Start should help with that goal. Finally, it’s not cheap to put an international team on the ground, and we need your support to make this happen.

This project is co-funded by the European Commission under the pilot project: “Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU” (DG CONNECT). This text reflects the author’s view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.