Chinese brands appear as foreign retailers have criticized the row in Xinjiang

Several netizens have frankly told Adidas to leave China. (AFP photo)

BEIJING: More foreign retail brands have come under fire from social media in China today in the wake of Beijing’s propaganda attack against H&M over the Swedish company’s previously raised concerns about Xinjiang.

Earlier this week, China denied allegations of human rights violations by its officials in the western region of Xinjiang after the European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on the officials on Monday.

Beijing responded with retaliatory sanctions against European lawmakers, academics and institutions.

Yesterday, Chinese state media singled out H&M with a statement reported by the media last year in which the Swedish retailer said it was extremely concerned about reports of indictment accusations in Xinjiang, and that it did not obtain products from the Chinese region.

It wasn’t clear why H&M’s statement was back in the public eye.

The social media frenzy, sparked by a government call to prevent foreign brands from tarnishing China’s name, has led netizens to search for other data previously released by foreign retailers in Xinjiang.

Nike Inc, which earlier said in an undated statement that it was “concerned” about reports of forced labor, was shot at.

So did the German sportswear company Adidas.

Several netizens said they would stop buying Nike and support domestic brands like Li Ning and Anta, while others bluntly told Adidas to leave China.

Shares of Anta Sports Products Ltd jumped more than 6% in Hong Kong today after issuing a statement saying it would continue to use cotton from Xinjiang.

Li Ning Co’s shares rose more than 7%.

Netizens have also targeted the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a global group promoting sustainable cotton production that said in October it was suspending approval of cotton imported from Xinjiang for the 2020-2021 season, citing human rights concerns.

If you boycott Xinjiang cotton, we will boycott you. A netizen wrote, Adidas either withdraw from BCI, or quit China.

BCI includes Japan’s Nike, Adidas, and Fast Retailing members.

Nike, Adidas and BCI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In response to the hype, H&M said yesterday that it respects Chinese consumers and is committed to long-term investment and development in China.

But by this morning, H&M was not even in some Chinese store locator maps.

H&M store searches on Baidu Maps yielded no results.

The Swedish clothing retailer’s official store was not accessible on Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform.

A department store in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, said on its website that it had shut down the H&M division and demanded an apology from the company for “spreading the rumors” and harming the interests of the region and China.

Overnight, the People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Communist Party, launched a campaign on social media in support of cotton imported from Xinjiang.

The drawing “I support Xinjiang cotton” that the newspaper published on a small Twitter-like Weibo blog has since attracted nearly 2.2 million likes.

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