China’s ruling Communist Party attacks H&M and other clothing and footwear brands as it responds to Western sanctions imposed on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the northern region -western Xinjiang.
The attacks began when the party’s Youth League on Wednesday drew attention to its social media account to a statement by H&M in March 2020 that it would stop buying cotton grown in Xinjiang. The Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of forced labor in that country.
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On Thursday, a party newspaper, the Global Times, cited Burberry, Adidas, Nike and New Balance as having made “cutting remarks” about cotton from Xinjiang as early as two years ago. Celebrities including Wang Yibo, a popular singer and actor, have announced that they are breaking endorsement contracts with H&M and Nike.
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Beijing often attacks foreign brands of clothing, automobiles, travel and the like for actions by their governments or to pressure companies to conform to its official positions on Taiwan, Tibet and other issues. sensitive.
Companies usually apologize and change websites or advertisements to maintain access to China’s populous market. But Xinjiang is an unusually thorny problem. Western brands are under pressure at home to distance themselves from possible abuse.
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More than a million people in Xinjiang, most of them from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, including Uyghurs, have been confined to labor camps, according to foreign researchers and governments. Beijing denies having mistreated them and says it wants to promote economic development and eradicate radicalism.
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On Monday, the 27 countries of the European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada jointly announced financial and travel sanctions against four senior Chinese officials accused of abuses in Xinjiang.
Beijing retaliated by saying it would impose unspecified sanctions against European lawmakers and a German researcher who published information on the detention camps.
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H&M’s statement last March cited a decision by the Better Cotton Initiative, an industry group that promotes environmental and labor standards, to stop licensing cotton from Xinjiang because it was “increasingly difficult.” to trace how it was produced. In September, H&M announced it would stop working with a Chinese manufacturer accused of using forced labor in a unit unrelated to the Swedish brand.
In January, Washington imposed a January ban on cotton from Xinjiang, a major supplier of clothing producers to Western markets.
China’s official outrage has so far focused on Europe, perhaps because relations with the EU were relatively friendly amid grudge with Washington over trade disputes and accusations of spy and theft technology.
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H & M’s official review reflected this tone of grievance at being hurt by a friend.
“How can H&M eat Chinese rice and then break the Chinese pot?” state television said Wednesday in a comment.
Internet users on Thursday named clothing brands Uniqlo from Japan and The Gap from the United States as other possible offenders. It is not known how many of these accounts were members of the public and how many were managed by the ruling party’s vast propaganda apparatus.
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Pop star Wang Yibo’s announcement of his resignation as Nike’s “brand ambassador” did not mention Xinjiang, but said he “firmly resists all words and actions that pollute China. “.
Others, including actor Huang Xuan and Song Qian, a singer and actress also known as Victoria Song who is a former member of Korean pop group f (x), have announced that they will end their contracts. approval with H&M. Actress Tang Songyun has said she is severing ties with Nike.
Chinese athletic shoe brand ANTA has announced it is pulling out of cotton industry group BCI.
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