Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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In China, boycott of brands opposing the use of Xinjiang cotton gains momentum

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                H&M, Nike and Burberry are undergoing a boycott campaign in China for having published press releases in 2020 against the use of cotton grown in Xinjiang province, where allegations of forced labor by Uyghurs exist.  The movement was launched after the imposition on Monday by the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada of sanctions against Beijing over the treatment of Uyghurs.

                                    <p><span><span>It's hard to think that the coincidence is due to chance.  A few days after the announcement on Monday of sanctions targeting China by the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, a boycott campaign against clothing brands such as H&M, Nike or Burberry is gaining momentum in China.</span></span>

While Beijing responded to the penalties by sanctioning ten European figures and on Friday extended its sanctions to nine Britons as well as four entities, the statements of major clothing brands on the forced labor of Uyghurs in the cotton fields of Xianjiang have conveniently reappeared .

In 2020, the Swedish H&M, the American Nike, the German Adidas and the Japanese Uniqlo had published press releases in which they pledged to no longer use cotton from crops in the Chinese province of Xinjiang after the publication of several studies reporting forced labor of Uighurs in the cotton fields.

This population, mainly Muslim and speaking a Turkic language, represents a little less than half of the 25 million inhabitants of Xinjiang. According to studies published by American and Australian institutes, at least 1 million of them were interned in “camps” and some subjected to “forced labor”.

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“You are dreaming!”

On Wednesday, H&M items were taken down from major Chinese e-commerce sites – Alibaba, and Pinduoduo. The brand’s boutiques have nevertheless remained open.

The controversy spread on social networks, where positions against the brands in question have multiplied after statements by the Communist Youth League, an organization affiliated with the ruling party. “Spreading rumors and boycotting cotton from Xinjiang, while hoping to earn money in China? Are you dreaming!” She wrote, hinting at a possible intervention by the executive in the boycott campaign .

Thursday, the announcement by several Chinese actors and singers that they were cutting all ties with Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo, Converse or even Calvin Klein, of which they were the image ambassadors, accentuated the boycott movement.

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“The country’s interests come first,” actress Tan Songyun said to end her partnership with Nike, saying she was “firmly opposed to any malicious actions aimed at smearing [la Chine]”.

According to the correspondent of Le Monde, Simon Leplâtre, “Thursday, on Chinese social networks, some [sont] film[és] setting fire to their collection of Nike sneakers “.

“No political position”

Anxious to extinguish the fire, the American brand Nike declared on Wednesday that the company endorsed “no political position”. As for the press release from the Swedish group H&M dating from 2020, it was no longer visible on Thursday on the group’s website – a sign of a possible withdrawal.

The targeted brands have received several international political support. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven notably defended the Swedish brand H&M on Friday. “I think it’s great when companies take responsibility for the working conditions of employees all over the world, that employees are treated with respect,” he said at a press conference.

The United States also condemned China’s “boycott” “campaign”. “We welcome and support companies that adhere to US laws and ensure that the goods we consume are not produced through forced labor,” US diplomacy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.

The boycott could extend in the coming days to other brands that have taken a stand on cotton crops in Xinjiang. The names of Zara, Gap, New Balance or even Fila circulated on the Chinese social network Weibo on Thursday.

“Reaffirm opposition to any form of forced labor”

The Ethics on Label collective published a series of messages on Twitter on Friday calling on clothing brands to “reaffirm their opposition to any form of forced labor, especially Uyghurs.”

The collective fears that clothing brands will withdraw their claim on Xinjiang cotton in the face of fear of no longer having access to the Chinese market. On Thursday on Weibo, the German luxury clothing brand Hugo Boss did not hesitate to say that it would continue to “buy and support cotton from Xinjiang”.

In a statement published on its site, the brand nevertheless affirms its opposition to using cotton from this northwestern province. Asked by the Hong Kong free press agency, the German brand assured that it had never used any raw material “coming directly from the province of Xinjiang”.

Asked about the double discourse intended for Chinese consumers on the one hand and Western consumers on the other hand, the brand did not express itself.

With AFP


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