Nike, Adidas join brands feeling Chinese social media heat over Xinjiang

Friday, 26 Mar, 2021

Shares of global fashion brands Adidas, H&M and Nike fell on Thursday after boycott calls on social media over China's Xinjiang cotton producers.

The European Union, United States, Britain and Canada on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese officials accusing them of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

"Retaliation from Beijing was expected after the British ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, was summoned this week by the Chinese foreign ministry to hear "solemn representations" about the United Kingdom sanctions imposed for the mass detention of Muslim minorities". One of the PLA's Weibo accounts called H&M's statement "ignorant and arrogant".

Nike, which said earlier in an undated statement it was concerned about reports of forced labour, came under fire. Nike shares fell as much as 5.4 per cent in NY before the start of regular trading Thursday. Li Ning Co's shares surged over 7%.

Chinese netizens don't buy the H&M reply regarding Xinjiang cotton, and some said the reply implies that the firm is not doing wrong, Global Times reported.

Users also targeted the Better Cotton Initiative which promotes sustainable cotton production and which said back in October 2020 that it would suspend its approval for cotton exported from Xinjiang for the 2020-2021 season.

"Spreading rumours to boycott Xinjiang cotton, while trying to make a profit in China?"

Xinjiang has steadily become a heated issue between China and the West as reports emerged that more than one million mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs were put in reeducation camps, prompting the US and others to accuse Beijing of genocide.

Spokespeople for Alibaba and JD didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

H&M said it "is committed to long-term investment and development in China". Physical store locations were blocked from searches on Baidu and Gaode maps, the equivalent of Google and Apple maps.

The search results of the taobao.com show that all "H&M" and "HM" searches have returned no results.

Unlike in some Western countries, where it sells online mainly via its own app or website, H&M relies on a network of third-party e-commerce platforms for distribution in China, where a few "super apps" have largely replaced individual apps and websites.

Asked about China's sanctions and the campaign against retailers, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday that China was defending itself against lies.

In January, Washington imposed a ban on imports of cotton from Xinjiang, a major supplier to clothing producers for Western markets.

Hua then held up a second photograph of cotton fields in Xinjiang.

On social media, the Communist Party's youth wing, which helped kick-start the movement, targeted the Better Cotton Initiative consortium, which a year ago suspended its licensing of Xinjiang cotton amid concerns about forced labor.

Hennes & Mauritz AB was blasted by the Communist Youth League and the People's Liberation Army Wednesday after social-media users dug out an undated company statement about accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang.