As per a report in Global Times, a Chinese government mouthpiece, brands like Nike and H&M have become the next target of netizens in China after their stance over Xinjiang cotton supply issues.
The Chinese netizens reportedly made #nike the biggest trend on China’s Twitter-like platform, Sina Weibo with 720 million views and 530,000 comments over its announcement highlighting its boycott of Xinjiang cotton.
The social media users in China have labeled the company’s announcement disgusting and advised the brand to leave China. Nike, in an official statement, stated, “We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). We have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential forced labor risks related to employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, in other parts of China.”
The company also specified, “Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”
It is not yet clear when Nike made the above statement.
Chinese social media users are outraging over global brands after Europe, the U.S. and other countries sanctioned Chinese officials this week over alleged human rights abuses. Since then there has been a call to boycott brands such as Nike, H&M and Burberry. While the brands are trying to distance themselves from reports of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, the local media and netizens seem to be unhappy with the brand statements suggesting they would stop buying cotton from Xinjiang or claimed that their supply chain does not include procurement from that region.
H&M had made the statement last year stating that it will no longer be procuring cotton from Xinjiang after reports revealed forced labour by Uyghur Muslims. On Friday, H&M was removed from Didi Chuxing ride-hailing app for all of China’s major cities. The Human Rights section of hmgroup.com has removed the statement on Xinjiang as of Friday. Statements of brands like Inditex, VF Corp, PVH and Abercrombie & Fitch were also no longer available since Thursday.
Shares of H&M, Nike Inc. and others have said to have plummeted after Chinese government officials endorsed the boycott and celebrities cut ties with brands including Adidas, New Balance and Japan’s Uniqlo.
On Wednesday last week, the US Customs and Border Protection agency said that its “Withhold Release Order” would “ban cotton and cotton products” from XPCC, which is a powerful Chinese quasi-military organization. It is believed that the company uses the detained Uighur Muslims as slave labor.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom too have acknowledged the gross human rights violation of Uighur Muslims.
The MPs and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 26, 2021
Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them.
Boris Johnson almost instantly received support from Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison on the issue.
Australia stands with you Boris 🇦🇺🇬🇧 https://t.co/s9RpbgN02A— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 27, 2021
So far, China has claimed that the news about mistreatment and human rights abuse in the Xinjiang region are false and continues to remain in denial.
China exploiting slave labour to supply western markets
As per a report, there are more than 80,000 Uyghurs who were transferred to different parts of the country between 2017 and 2019. Some of them were sent directly from the detention camps. The number included in the report was conservative, and the actual numbers can be much higher. These workers not only work as forced labour but have to undergo compulsory organized Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours. They are constantly under surveillance and not allowed to take part in any religious observations.
In recent years, the transfer of ‘forced labour’ has increased from Xinjiang. As per the media reports, 20,859 ‘rural surplus labourers’ from Xinjiang were transferred to other Chinese regions in 2017. In 2018, the number increased to 28,000, and in 2019 approx 32,000 people were transferred out of Xinjiang.