More and more foreign clothing brands are embroiled in the controversy over cotton originating in China’s Xinjiang region, where many Uyghurs live in “re-education camps”.
The fact that various companies express their concerns about forced labour in the critical cotton region has angered the Chinese.
On Chinese social media, people called on each other to stop buying products from companies like H&M, Nike and Adidas. The Japanese brands Uniqlo and Muji were now added.
The British luxury brand Burberry, known for the checkered motif, also lost a brand ambassador. In addition, Burberry’s iconic clothing has been removed from the popular video game “Honor of Kings”.
Popular Chinese actor Wang Yibo previously cancelled his sponsorship contract with Nike. His colleague Zhou Dongyu followed suit and tore off her contract with Burberry because the fashion brand did not clearly speak about Xinjiang cotton. Actress Ni Ni and boy band star Wang Yuan announced that they would be severing ties with the Uniqlo brand.
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. Recently, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on China for human rights violations.
China has been accused of repressing the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang for years. 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.