BEIJING: Anger at retailer H&M erupted on Chinese social media today as the Communist Youth League and state media attacked it for saying it was “extremely concerned” about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.
On Monday, the European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang.
China responded by imposing sanctions on European lawmakers and institutions.
H&M said in a previous statement that it was “deeply concerned about reports from civil society organizations and the media containing accusations of forced labor,” and that it had not exported products from Xinjiang.
It was not immediately clear why an old statement from the Swedish company, reported by the media last year, about the cotton-producing region where rights groups say Uighur Muslims face repression has returned to the public eye.
Are you spreading rumors of Xinjiang Cotton County, while also wanting to make money in China? Wise thinking! The Communist Youth League, the youth wing of China’s ruling party, said in a post on the Weibo social media platform.
In another post, the association referred to statements made by the chief Chinese diplomat, Yang Jiechi, at a combat meeting with his US counterparts last week in Alaska, where he said, referring to various US measures, that the Chinese people “will not swallow this.”
The association said Xinjiang cotton “will not swallow this”.
Actor Huang Xuan said on his official Weibo page on social media that he is terminating his contract as a representative of H&M, saying he opposes “slander and spreading rumors.”
H&M also said in its original statement that it will gradually end its relationship with a Chinese supplier accused of forced labor.
Some people on Weibo called H&M to leave and boycott China.
One person said, “It is extremely shameful to discredit Xinjiang and we do not buy your products.”
H&M did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times newspaper, Hu Shijin, urged Western companies to be “very careful” and not to “crack down on Xinjiang in China.”
Doing so “will undoubtedly anger the Chinese public,” he said in a social media post.
He did not single out any company.
Activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor, and sterilization in Xinjiang.
China has denied the allegations and says it is providing professional training and its measures are necessary to fight extremism.