After clothing chain H&M, Nike is now also under fire in China because the American sports brand no longer uses cotton from the Chinese province of Xinjiang due to concerns about forced labour.
On Chinese social media, people are calling on each other to stop buying Nike products. And popular Chinese actor Wang Yibo has cancelled his sponsorship deal with Nike.
The uproar started after Chinese youth organizations made angry statements to Western companies. “Do you want to make money in China while spreading false rumours and boycott Xinjiang cotton? Wishful thinking”, that’s how it sounded, for example. Another organization called H & M’s statements on the subject “ignorant and arrogant”.
But it’s probably not just criticism. For an unclear reason, the name of H&M can suddenly no longer be found on a crucial e-commerce platform of the Chinese online store group Alibaba. H&M China has already issued a brief statement due to the uproar. In it, the company emphasizes that it does not take a political position.
The development is remarkable because Western companies have not recently announced cutting ties with cotton producers from Xinjiang. The messages to which the Chinese respond had been on the websites of the companies for some time. The actions, therefore, seem more like a reaction to recent international developments. On Monday, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on China for human rights violations.
China has been accused of years of suppressing the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, which is also a critical cotton region. Uyghurs are imprisoned, tortured and sterilized in camps and are forced to perform forced labour, say human rights activists and experts from the United Nations, among others. The Beijing government denies doing so, claiming that extremist and terrorist Uyghurs are being re-educated in camps.