China decided to boycott Western clothing and shoes brands. This is the result of growing international opposition to abuses in Xinjiang.
China decides to boycott another western brand due to increasing international objection to the abuse in the Xinjiang region. More and more clothing brands have started to express their concern about the claims that members of the China’s Muslim minority, Uyghurs, are being exploited for forced labor.
Why does China boycott H&M?
The Uyghurs are one of the 56 minorities officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China and live mainly in the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. This is the region where the abuse takes place. According to independent sources, over a million people have been imprisoned in labor camps [1, 2, 3]. However, Beijing continuously denies the ill-treatment of the Uyghurs and claims to be trying to promote economic development .
Last year, H&M expressed their “deep concern” about the forced labor. However, the previously-issued statement on cessation of buying the Xinjiang-grown cotton was not noticed and publicized until March this year. This started the boycott. Almost immediately the largest Chinese platforms withdrew H&M products from their sites and Chinese celebrities have started to break contracts with the brand .
“The clean and pristine cotton of the Xinjiang region must not be slandered” – the spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday .
Global brands and China’s policy
Other western clothing brands – including Nike, New Balance, and Burberry – are also criticized by state media for withdrawing from buying the Xinjiang cotton . Furthermore, although Nike is the official kits manufacturer for Shanghai Shuena football team, one of the country’s biggest football teams, in their recently released photo the Nike logo is no longer visible on the players’ clothes .
On the other hand, the Inditex company, which owns brands such as Zara, Pull&Bear, or Bershka, discreetly removed the “zero tolerance for forced labor” statement from their website .
The future of H&M in China
China is a huge trade area for clothing brands and that is the reason why it can dictate terms for foreign suppliers. For H&M, the boycott can mean a serious financial blow. The company has so far issued a perfunctory statement declaring to be “working together with the colleagues in China to do everything possible to manage the current challenges and find a way forward.”
Still, the prior statement on the Uyghurs situation in Xinjiang and the withdrawal from purchasing the cotton from this region is an important declaration. Such open criticism of China’s policy is an important breakthrough as regards violating human rights in cotton cultivation.
 John Sudworth, China’s ‘tainted’ cotton.
 Jakub Kapiszewski, Prześladowania Ujgurów: Nawet George Orwell by tego nie wymyślił.
 H&M Group, Statement on H&M in China.
Cover photo: H&M shop in China. Photo: Commons.Wikipedia.org.
trans. Justyna Siwiec – a philologist and a translator. Food and music lover interested in the history and culture of the Middle East. Salam Lab’s co-worker.