The Swedish retailer has come under pressure from Chinese consumers over a statement it made last year.
Fashion retailer H&M is facing the possibility of a boycott in China after the company issued a statement expressing deep concern over reports of forced labor in Xinjiang. Though the opinion was voiced back in mid-2020, the actual social media storm only began this week.
The statement can still be found on the Swedish retailer's website. It was published in September, raising concerns about the Uighurs' situation in western mainland China in Xinjiang's autonomous region. Many media reported that Uighurs were discriminated against and used as slave labor in cotton production. H&M then refused to purchase cotton from producers in the area. And this raw material is very much produced there - according to some reports, every fifth cotton article sold in the world contains cotton or yarn from this region.
At the time, this statement went virtually unnoticed. But after eight months, it was brought up again. The microblogging site Sina Weibo published a series of comments from celebrities and influential organizations such as the Communist Youth Union of China. The Chinese army even intervened, accusing H&M of "ignorance and arrogance. The company has been accused of duplicity, saying it wants to make money in China but boycotts Xinjiang cotton and spreads false rumors.
Several major Chinese e-commerce platforms have already refused to sell H&M clothing. The intention to break the contract with the Swedish retailer announced the actors and celebrities involved in promoting the brand products.
The reason for this delayed reaction from the Chinese public is not entirely apparent. Still, Reuters believes it may be due to recent U.S. sanctions against several Chinese officials linked to Xinjiang's situation.
H&M China responded Wednesday night with a post on microblogging site Sina Weibo stating that the company "has no political stance and respects Chinese consumers." But it is doubtful that this will be enough to have any effect on the situation.
According to Forbes, Nike could be next after H&M. That company has also raised concerns about the Uighur situation. Its criticism in the Chinese social networks is gradually gaining momentum, but Nike's representatives declined to comment.
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