Saturday, 18 September, 2021


CHINA Ordinary Chinese and Chinese media attack firms that boycott Xinjiang cotton

A woman walks past a store of the Swedish fashion retailer H&M at a shopping mall in Beijing China H&M Store Closed in Xinjiang Amid Backlash Against Boycott of Local Cotton Report Says REUTERS FLORENCE LO
Kristine Garrett | 26 March, 2021, 07:42

It came after Swedish retailer H&M and several global fashion brands followed the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a Switzerland-based cotton organization, to stop the use of cotton from China's Xinjiang due to "forced labor" accusations.

But by Thursday morning, H&M did not exist on some Chinese store locator maps.

"More than 40 per cent of the cotton in Xinjiang is harvested by machinery, so the alleged forced labour is non-existent".

China produces over a fifth of the world's cotton, with Xinjiang accounting for about 87 per cent of Chinese output.

China on Thursday launched a PR war on Western brands critical of rights abuses in Xinjiang, with celebrities severing ties with Nike, H & M facing a boycott and Burberry dumped from a deal with a gaming giant.

On Wednesday, the Communist Youth League, a youth division of the party known for its savvy online campaigns, posted on microblogging platform Weibo accusing H&M of spreading rumors about the cotton industry in Xinjiang.

China has sanctioned organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom over "lies and disinformation" about Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, days after Britain imposed sanctions for what it called human rights abuses in the western Chinese region. Several Chinese state-affiliated news outlets have called for a nationwide boycott of H&M in articles that cited removals of the retailer's products by the country's internet platforms.

Ryohin Keikaku recently conducted due diligence for Xinjiang factories, with which it has an indirect relationship via its supply chain, and also commissioned an independent audit group to make onsite audits, but found no significant issues, the company told Reuters on Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who this week hit the USA and Europe over everything from the slave trade and Nazism to the killing of George Floyd and alleged hoarding of coronavirus vaccines, on Thursday called the Xinjiang forced labor allegations "malicious lies fabricated by anti-China forces". The company also said it doesn't purchase cotton directly from suppliers, but uses third parties.

Currently, we are cooperating with more than 350 manufacturers in China to provide Chinese and global consumers with apparel products that comply with the principles of sustainable development, the announcement said. The social media post stirred widespread outrage on the internet and has been liked 383,000 times within a day, with tens of thousands of user comments calling to boycott H&M.

In January, the Trump administration ordered a halt to all imports of cotton and tomato paste from Xinjiang.

"It's concerning", said Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based marketing and branding firm China Skinny. That came a month after the USA -based Center for Global Policy published a report alleging new evidence from Chinese government documents and media reports of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs being forced to pick cotton by hand through coercive state-mandated labor.

Nike did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.

Popular Chinese actor Wang Yibo terminated his contract as a representative for Nike in response to social media criticism over the company's Xinjiang statement, his agency said on Weibo on Thursday.

Western brands usually tread carefully with China over sensitive issues such as Hong Kong and Tibet.

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