China steps up pressure on brands to reject reports of Uyghur abuses

BEIJING – China on Monday increased pressure on overseas shoe and apparel brands to reject reports of abuse in Xinjiang, and urged companies targeted by Beijing for boycotts to take a closer look, citing a statement from one that there are none I found forced labor.

H&M, Nike, Adidas and other brands are embroiled in a violent conflict over Xinjiang after Western governments sanctioned Chinese officials accused of abuse. The state media called for a boycott of H&M because they said it would no longer be the case Use cotton from Xinjiang and criticize other brands for expressing concerns about reports of forced labor.

“If the sanction is imposed on Xinjiang, it will hit your own head,” Xinjiang regional government spokesman Xu Guixiang said at a press conference in Beijing.

According to human rights groups and first-hand reports from Uyghurs, more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims are being held in detention camps in the region, where they are forced to study Marxism, give up their religion, work in factories and suffer abuse.

Beijing calls the centers “re-education camps” and says they provide vocational training and are necessary to fight extremism.

The US has called China’s genocide practices, which Beijing rejects.

H&M should “seriously investigate this matter,” said Xu.

Workers wearing masks pass an H&M store in Beijing on Monday, March 29, 2021.Ng Han Guan / AP

The attacks began when the ruling party’s youth league released the H&M statement last Wednesday. State television called for a boycott of the Swedish retailer. Official media have criticized Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo and Burberry for raising concerns about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.

It came after the United States, the 27-state European Union, the UK and Canada announced travel and financial sanctions on March 22nd against four Chinese officials alleged of abuse. Beijing has retaliated by announcing similar penalties against European and British officials, lawmakers and researchers.

H&M goods have disappeared from major Chinese e-commerce platforms, but the other brands were still available on Monday. The smartphone apps for H & M, Adidas and Nike were missing in the major Chinese app stores on Monday.

The Communist Party often pressures foreign clothing, travel, and other brands to take action by their governments or to force them to take their positions on Taiwan, Tibet, and other sensitive issues.

Most stick to it because China is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for global fashion, electronics and other consumer brands.

Another government spokesman, Elijan Anayat, pointed to a statement by athletic shoe brand Skechers USA, Inc. that it had found no evidence of a report by an Australian think tank suggesting that one of its Chinese suppliers might use forced labor.

The supplier, Dong Guan Lu Zhou Shoes, confirmed that some of its employees are Uyghurs but said they are free to leave, according to Skechers. The company has carried out several audits of the supplier since 2017 and “had no reason to believe that Lu Zhou is doing forced labor.”

“I think they are valued by Chinese customers and are gaining larger (market) shares,” said Elijan Anayat.

H & M’s statement last March cited a decision by the Better Cotton Initiative, an industry group campaigning for labor and environmental standards, to stop licensing Xinjiang cotton because it was difficult to track how it was made has been.

Japanese retailer MUJI and South Korean athletic shoe maker FILA will continue to buy cotton from Xinjiang. FILA China said last week it had started withdrawing from the BCI.

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