By Devanshi Thakkar
Swedish brand H&M said in a statement that it would no longer use cotton from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and ended its relationship with a yarn company in the region. In the statement, the retailer said it was “Deeply concerned by reports from civil society organizations and media that include accusations of forced labor.”
“For enterprises that touch the bottom line of our country, the response is very clear: don’t buy!” China Central Television said on its social media account. It said the ‘H’ and ‘M’ in the Swedish name stood for Chinese words meaning lie and falsehood.
The attacks follow Monday’s decision by the 27-nation European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada to impose travel and financial sanctions on four Chinese officials blamed for abuses in Xinjiang.
More than 1 million people in Xinjiang, most of them from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, have been confined to work camps, according to foreign researchers and governments. Beijing denies mistreating them and says it is trying to promote economic development and stamp out radicalism.
“The so-called existence of forced labor in the Xinjiang region is totally fictitious,” said a Commerce Ministry spokesman, Gao Feng. He called on foreign companies to “correct wrong practices” but did not say what they were expected to do.
Celebrities including Wang Yibo, a popular singer and actor, announced they were breaking endorsement contracts with H&M and Nike.
H&M products were missing from China’s most popular e-commerce platforms, Alibaba Group’s TMall and JD.com. News reports said they were removed due to public criticism over its Xinjiang statement. The companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
H&M’s statement was circulated on Chinese social media platform Weibo. H&M products were removed from shopping sites including Alibaba and JD.com, and Baidu Maps removed geolocations of the retailer. Social media posts showed that at least 50 H&M stores were closed across China over fears of protests.
Nike released its own statement about using cotton from the region, saying “We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.” People posted videos of burning Air Jordans and Air Force 1s on Weibo in protest. Chinese actor Wang Yibo ended his contract with Nike as a result of the statement.
Adidas also stated that it would not use cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Three big stars, Yang Mi, Jackson Yee, and Dilraba Dilmurat, all severed relationships with Adidas as a result.