China attacks foreign clothing and footwear brands in Xinjiang

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Chinese state television called Thursday for a boycott of H&M as Beijing attacks foreign brands of clothing and footwear following Western sanctions against Chinese officials accused of human rights violations in the Xinjiang region.

The ruling Communist Party criticized H&M for saying in March 2020 that it would stop buying cotton from the northwestern region of China. The Swedish retailer has joined with other brands in expressing concern over reports of forced labor there.

The party newspaper World time also criticized statements by Burberry, Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Zara about Xinjiang two years ago.

“For companies that affect our country’s bottom line, the answer is very clear: don’t buy! China Central Television said on its social media account. He said that the “H” and “M” in the Swedish name stood for Chinese words meaning lie and lie.

The attacks follow Monday’s decision by the European Union on 27 countries, the United States, Britain and Canada to impose financial and travel sanctions on four Chinese officials accused of abuses in Xinjiang .

More than a million people in Xinjiang, most of them from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, have been confined to labor camps, according to researchers and foreign governments. Beijing denies mistreating them and says it is trying to promote economic development and root out radicalism.

“The alleged existence of forced labor in the Xinjiang region is completely fictitious,” Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said. He called on foreign companies to “correct bad practices” but did not say what they were supposed to do.

Celebrities including Wang Yibo, a popular singer and actor, have announced that they are breaking sponsorship deals with H&M and Nike.

H&M products were absent from China’s most popular e-commerce platforms, Alibaba Group’s TMall and JD.com. News reports said they were withdrawn due to public criticism of his Xinjiang statement. The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Beijing often attacks foreign brands of clothing, automobiles, travel and others for actions of their governments or to pressure companies to conform to its official positions on Taiwan, Tibet and other issues. sensitive.

Companies usually apologize and modify their websites or advertisements to maintain access to China, one of the world’s largest markets. But Xinjiang is an unusually thorny problem. Western brands are under pressure at home to distance themselves from possible abuse.

A man wearing a mask walks past a Uniqlo store in Beijing on March 25, 2021.

Lost sales in China, the only major economy where consumer spending has rebounded above pre-pandemic levels, can be particularly painful at a time when US and European demand is weak.

The H&M Group “does not represent any political point of view” and “respects Chinese consumers,” the company said on its social media account.

The company said it was dealing with 350 Chinese manufacturers to make products “in line with the principles of sustainable development.” H&M said it “is committed to investing and developing for the long term in China.”

Brian Ehrig, a consumer practice partner at global strategy and management consulting firm Kearney, said it’s likely that around 60 to 70 percent of H&M’s raw materials, like fabrics, come from China. He said if H&M were to be cut, it would be much more difficult for the company to access these materials and could lead to higher prices and production delays.

H&M had 520 stores and $ 1.4 billion in sales in China in 2019, the latest year for which annual figures have been released. China is its third market after Germany and the United States.

The criticism began when the ruling party’s Youth League called attention Wednesday to H&M’s statement last March on its social media account. He gave no indication as to why he chose the company or an explanation for citing a year-old statement.

A delivery man walks past an Adidas store and an H&M store in Beijing on March 25, 2021.

A delivery man walks past an Adidas store and an H&M store in Beijing on March 25, 2021.

“Spreading lies to boycott Xinjiang while wanting to make money in China? Wishful thinking,” the Youth League said.

The World time Burberry, Adidas, Nike and New Balance also made “sharp remarks” about cotton from Xinjiang. A separate World time The report cited what it said was a statement by Zara that he had a “zero tolerance approach to forced labor.”

H&M’s statement last year cited a decision by the Better Cotton Initiative, an industry group that promotes environmental and labor standards, to stop authorizing 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 ban on cotton imports from Xinjiang, a major supplier of clothing producers to Western markets.

China’s official outrage focused on Europe, possibly because relations with the EU had been friendly amid resentment with Washington over trade disputes and accusations of Chinese espionage and technology theft.

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 China pot?” State television said in a comment on Wednesday.

Internet comments cited clothing brands Uniqlo from Japan and The Gap from the United States as other possible violators. It was 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.

Pop star Wang’s announcement that he was stepping down as Nike’s “brand ambassador” did not mention Xinjiang. He said he “firmly resisted all words and actions that pollute China.”

Others, including singer and actress Song Qian, a former member of Korean pop group f (x) also known as Victoria Song, and actor Huang Xuan, who announced they would end their contracts with sponsorship with H&M. Actress Tang Songyun has said she is severing ties with Nike.

Chinese sports shoe brand ANTA has announced its withdrawal from BCI, the cotton industry group.


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