Sunday, June 26, 2022

Chinese apps, celebs lash out at Western fashion brands


China’s top ride-hailing app dropped Swedish fashion retailer H&M from its listings as Chinese celebrities stopped endorsing foreign labels in a growing uproar over Western accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang.

H&M faced public backlash in China when social media users in the country circulated a statement the company made last year announcing it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang after reports of the use of forced labor by Uighur Muslims.

Western governments and rights groups have accused authorities in the far-western region of detaining and torturing Uighurs in camps, where some former inmates have said they were subject to ideological indoctrination.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps in question as vocational training centers which help combat religious extremism.

Search results for H&M in the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing app for all of China’s major cities yielded no results on Friday. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The backlash against H&M caused Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, shopping app Meituan and the maps app for search engine Baidu Inc to remove the Swedish retailer from their listings.

Other overseas brands, including Burberry Group PLC, Nike Inc, and Adidas AG have also faced online blowback for making similar statements regarding their sourcing of cotton in Xinjiang.

The Human Rights section of H&M’s website on Friday no longer carried the link to the 2020 statement on Xinjiang. The statement could still be accessed through the page’s direct address.

Statements expressing concern about or intolerance of forced labor in Xinjiang previously seen on the websites of Inditex, VF Corp, PVH, and Abercrombie & Fitch were no longer available on Thursday.

Following inquiries by Reuters, VF Corp pointed to a statement on a separate section of its website that said it did not source from Xinjiang. A Google cache showed the statement had been added in the last four days. VF did not respond to a question asking why the statement had been moved.

PVH, Inditex, and Abercrombie & Fitch did not respond to a request for comment.

“We have to stand by the brands keeping statements condemning slavery and shame those who are taking them down. This is a defining moment for these brands,” said French MEP Raphael Glucksmann, one of 10 EU individuals sanctioned by China who has run social media campaigns calling on retailers to stand against forced labor in Xinjiang.

“Consumers in Europe need to place counter pressure on companies retracting their statements.”


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