China State TV Encourages Boycott Of H&M, Nike Over Comments About Abuses In Xinjiang
A logo of Hennes and Mauritz AB (H&M), a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company, known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. On October 1st, 2020, in Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)
Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Thursday, China state television called for a boycott of various shoe and clothing brands due to the companies’ previous statements about reports of human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

“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, according to The Associated Press. The state television also “said the H and M in the Swedish name stood for Chinese words meaning lie and falsehood,” AP reports.

The Communist Party in China spoke out against H&M for making an announcement in March 2020 that it would no longer buy cotton from the northwestern Chinese area. At the time, H&M reportedly “joined other brands in expressing concern about reports of forced labor there.”

“H&M Group’s statement on due diligence” was posted last year, according to CNN. It was then put up on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, on Wednesday, sparking outrage.

The statement said, in part, “We strictly prohibit any type of forced labour in our supply chain, regardless of the country or region. If we discover and verify a case of forced labour at a supplier we work with, we will take immediate action and, as an ultimate consequence, look to terminate the business relationship.”

AP reports, H&M items “were missing from China’s most popular e-commerce platforms, Alibaba Group’s TMall and News reports said they were removed due to public criticism over its Xinjiang statement. The companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.”

Global Times, the party newspaper, also spoke out against statements made by Burberry, Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Zara about Xinjiang in the past.

A Commerce Ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, said, “The so-called existence of forced labor in the Xinjiang region is totally fictitious.”

CNN reports that H&M posted a statement on Wednesday night on Weibo, saying, “[This] does not represent any political position … H&M Group always respects Chinese consumers. We are committed to long-term investment and development in China.” The company also said it was working with “more than 350 manufacturers” in China.

Nike also received criticism after a similar statement from the company was posted on Weibo. CNN reports that Nike had said almost a year ago that it was “concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, Xinjiang.”

“Nike does not source products from [Xinjiang] and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region,” the statement said.

After the statement was put on Weibo, Chinese actor and singer Wang Yibo said that he had cut off his contracts with Nike.

The escalation comes after the Chinese government has faced backlash for the growing reports of its abusive treatment of ethnic minorities. Earlier this month, an independent group found the Chinese government responsible for committing genocide against the Uyghur people.

The United States, along with several other countries, imposed sanctions against officials in China earlier this week. Businesses are also facing pressure to answer for their involvement with the Olympics to be held in Beijing next year. A collection of human rights groups wrote an open letter to Airbnb, asking the company to no longer partner with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

The Daily Wire reports,

The open letter to Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky states, “Given the Chinese government’s discriminatory policies against Tibetans and Uyghurs and its repressive policies against other people under its rule, we urge you to withdraw your support for the Winter Games. Such a move would clearly signal Airbnb’s opposition to human rights violations, including what governments are increasingly recognizing as a genocide against the Uyghur people.”

The group points out that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games will begin in less than a year “against a backdrop of severe repression and worsening human rights.” They mention how the officials in China have been touting the Olympics as “open” and “inclusive,” stating that it will make a “harmonious world” and advance “social progress.” 

According to CNN, some companies in China have started to specifically promote their use of cotton from the region in question. “Chinese brand Anta Sports said in a statement that it would continue to use cotton from Xinjiang, while Japanese retailer Muji began to advertise products made with ‘Xinjiang cotton.'”

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