The call for boycott in Chinese social networks after the rejection of Xinjiang cotton by foreign clothing brands has caused Nike and Adidas to lose advertising contracts, H&M to be banned on virtual platforms or Hugo Boss to ensure that it will continue to “buy and support it.”
The campaign began yesterday on Weibo, known as the “Chinese Twitter”, after a cross of sanctions between China and several Western countries on account of human rights violations and forced labor taking place in that region.
The Communist Youth League was the one that lit the fuse and the Swedish brand H&M, the main target: the fact that the statement rejecting the use of cotton from Xinjiang dates back to September 2020 did not prevent it from becoming the target of anger on the heavily censored Chinese social networks.
The company’s store is no longer accessible on the country’s major e-commerce platforms and its physical stores have disappeared from the maps of Baidu and Didi, China’s equivalents of Google and Uber, respectively. All of them are private companies.
More than thirty actors and other famous Chinese celebrities have also contributed to this pressure on social networks, joined by spokespersons from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organizations from the country’s textile and consumer sector, who have broken their advertising contracts along with various foreign companies such as Nike, Adidas and Burberry.
Hugo Boss and Asics will continue to support the crackdown in Xinjiang
Some international firms have already tried to protect themselves from the Chinese boycott with statements joining a campaign titled “I support Xinjiang cotton.”
On Weibo, the official Hugo Boss account posted a statement last night noting, “Xinjiang cotton is one of the best in the world (…). We will continue to buy and support Xinjiang cotton.”
The brand went further and assured that it always “resolutely defends China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, a mention that aligns the message with Beijing’s approach to Xinjiang, which assures that its policies in the area are part of the “fight against separatist terrorism.”
In September 2020, the US network NBC had quoted representatives of the German company as saying that they had asked their suppliers to prove that their products did not come from Xinjiang.
In a similar statement, the Japanese brand Asics said that its local supply chains include cotton from Xinjiang, that it will continue to “buy and support it” and that the company “strongly opposes” all “actions to defame and spread rumors about China”.
Ten percent of Hugo Boss’ worldwide sales come from China, which it considers a “key priority”, while for Asics the figure rises to 12 percent.
The Xinjiang communiqués
In recent months, numerous international companies have made it clear that they do not use cotton from Xinjiang in the face of accusations from Western countries about forced labor in that region of northwest China.
In October, the BCI announced that it was suspending its certification for Xinjiang cotton for the 2020-2021 season in a statement that no longer appears on its website.
For now, Nike -for which sales in China account for 19% of the global total- maintains on its website the statement denying the use of this material, while H&M -China accounts for 5% of its global sales- seems to have withdrawn it from its website.