Thursday, April 15, 2021

China boycotts H&M sales for refusing to use Xinjiang cotton


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Mike Mozart / Flickr

The Communist Party is pushing for a boycott of the clothing brand H&M because it has refused to use cotton from Xinjiang – a province where millions of Uighurs live and which is responsible for the production of 85% of China’s cotton.

The Communist Youth League, a division of the party, attacked the Swedish brand of fast fashion through several posts on Weibo, accusing her of lying about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

“A brand is to invent lies and boycotting Xinjiang cotton and want to make money in China at the same time? ” wrote the youth league in one of the shared publications. The posts have generated a wave of hatred against the Swedish brand.

However, the H&M is not the only fast fashion to assume this position. Several international brands have promised to stop buying cotton from Xinjiang, which produces about a fifth of the world’s cotton, on allegations of forced labor.

In this sense, the state media launched an attack on H&M, while the Government criticized the new sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

On Wednesday, the search term “H&M” generated zero results no Taobao, o site most popular shopping mall in China. Questioned by VICE, the website’s parent company, Alibaba, did not respond to a request for comment.

Also H&M ambassadors in China, celebrities Huang Xuan and Victoria Song, issued statements saying that they had stopped collaborating with the brand. The statements of the Chinese stars state that they are against acts aimed at defaming China.

In parallel, some internet users have also called for a boycott to other brands that have pledged to avoid using Xinjiang cotton, such as Uniqlo, Nike and Gap.

In an increasingly globalized world, and where the large chains of fast fashion have a large part of their production in the country, the state-supported boycott decisions are putting the companies between the sword and the wall and brands will have to choose one side: either continue with business in China, or meet ethical requirements.

For example, the Chinese sportswear company Anta Sports has already taken a stand. The brand announced on Weibo that it would leave the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) – a non-profit group that provides sustainability credentials to companies – and that would remain with its activity in the country. “We always buy and use cotton from Chinese production regions, including Xinjiang cotton,” said the company.

Until now, H&M did not comment about the subject.

According to some local media, more than half a million people from ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China are being forced to work harvesting cotton. The scale of forced labor is much larger than that initially envisaged.

This type of work is part of the “poverty alleviation” program carried out by the Chinese government, which has prompted several sanctions by the West against the Asian country.

Beijing claims that it only created “vocational practice centers” in Xinjiang, which educated ethnic minorities and freed them from poverty, considering the allegations of abuse were made by anti-China politicians and academics.

Ana Isabel Moura Ana Isabel Moura, ZAP //


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