Swedish multinational clothing-retail giant H&M has decided to no longer source cotton from China's Xinjiang region and has been blocked from all major Chinese e-commerce platforms including Tmall, Taobao, JD.com, and Pinduoduo on Wednesday. H&M’s app has also been removed from app stores of Chinese phone companies, including Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi. In navigation platforms including AutoNavi and Baidu Map, the company's retail locations tend to be blocked as well.
This is in reaction to threats of retaliation as the Asian nation takes a more assertive position in the face of reports of human rights abuses. Two well-known celebrities have also broken relations with H&M, and state media outlets are writing articles critical of the retailer.
Last year H&M announced that they will not source cotton from Xinjiang and was ending its relationship with a Chinese yarn producer because of the "forced labor" accusations that involved minorities in the region.
The company published this statement in response to a report by think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute pointing to H&M as a beneficiary of a forced labor transfer program. On Wednesday, H&M China said in a statement that they do not represent any political position and remain committed to long-term investment in China.
Over the treatment of China's Uyghur minority group United States, Britain, the European Union, and Canada have announced sanctions on Chinese officials on Monday in an escalating row
Rights groups have also claimed that around 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in camps in Xinjiang, where authorities have been also accused of imposing forced labor and forcibly sterilizing women. Although China is declining all the allegations and constantly saying that the training programs and work schemes have helped stamp out extremism.
On Wednesday, the Communist Youth League, the youth wing of China's ruling party, wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo platform that it's wishful thinking to spread rumors to boycott Xinjiang cotton while wanting to make money in China. The state media has also lashed out against what it called "lies" made with "ulterior motives".
Broadcaster CCTV has also criticized H&M for eating China's rice while smashing its pot. They also accused the company of aiming to "destroy the development space of Chinese businesses and workers". In addition to that Xinhua news agency said that respecting facts was the key bottom line.
Song Qian, a Chinese singer, and actress also known as Victoria Song who is a former member of the Korean pop group f(x), also announced they would end endorsement contracts with H&M and would no longer have a relationship with the firm.
Other major clothing companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have also been targeted because of their links to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Last year, BCI, a major international cotton sustainability organization, halted licensing of farms in Xinjiang due to concerns about the region's use of forced labor.
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