H&M told to leave China as Xinjiang labour stance resurfaces

Chinese netizens don't buy H&M reply regarding Xinjiang cotton — Global Times

Xinjiang, along with other issues, is at the heart of the political tug-of-war between China and the U.S.in recent years.

It was unclear when Nike had put out the statement, which did not have a date on it.

On Wednesday night, Chinese state broadcaster CGTN dredged up the statement and called for consumers to boycott H&M, saying the brand would pay a heavy cost.

Shares of Anta Sports Products Ltd and Li Ning Co surged, while shares in Adidas, Inditex and H&M fell on Thursday.

US-based Nike and Sweden's H&M are the first targets of the boycott campaign.

Earlier this week, the UK, European Union, the United States and Canada jointly announced travel and financial sanctions on four senior Chinese officials blamed for abuses in Xinjiang.

An outraged China struck back with tit-for-tat sanctions as a war of words erupted between Beijing and several European nations.

Internet users also targeted the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a group that promotes sustainable cotton production which said in October it was suspending its approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang for the 2020-2021 season, citing human rights concerns.

In it, H&M said that it was "deeply concerned by reports from civil society organizations and media that include accusations of forced labor and discrimination of ethno-religious minorities" in Xinjiang and that it had stopped buying cotton from growers in the region.

State media on Wednesday lashed out against what they called H&M's "lies" and "ulterior motives", while a department store in the restive region's Urumqi city demanded an apology from the company in a statement on Thursday.

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Nike did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment. "Either Adidas quits BCI, or get out of China", one internet user wrote.

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

The search results of the taobao.com show that all "H&M" and "HM" searches have returned no results.

Unlike in some Western countries, where it sells online mainly via its own app or website, H&M relies on a network of third-party e-commerce platforms for distribution in China, where a few "super apps" have largely replaced individual apps and websites.

At a daily media briefing at the Chinese foreign ministry, spokeswoman Hua Chunying, when asked about H&M, held up a photograph of Black Americans picking cotton.

In another post, the League referred to remarks made by China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, at a combative meeting with his USA counterparts last week in Alaska, where, referring to various US actions, he said the Chinese people "won't swallow this".

Hua then held up a second photograph of cotton fields in Xinjiang.

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

The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the ruling Communist Party, quoted the People's Daily as saying, "H&M would rather believe the lies spread by a few people than hear the voices of billions of Chinese people, and would not go to Xinjiang to take a look".

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.

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