US sports brand Nike and Swedish fashion chain H&M have come under fire in China after raising concerns over reports of mass forced labor by Uighurs in producing cotton in Xinjiang.
Many Chinese are calling for a trademark boycott and many celebrities have cut ties with Nike and H&M. For example, famous Chinese actors Tan Seungyun and Wang Yibo have terminated their sponsorship contract with Nike. The latter said he opposes “any act to discredit China.”
Searches for “H&M” were banned in China’s largest e-commerce stores – including Alibaba – on Wednesday and the two Chinese H&M ambassadors announced that they had terminated their contracts following the fashion chain’s decision last year to stop using cotton from Xinjiang.
Nike decided to follow the same path. “We are concerned about reports relating to and relating to forced labor in and related to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR),” the sports brand wrote in an undated statement. “Nike does not purchase products from XUAR and we and our contracted suppliers have assured that they do not use textiles or yarn from the area.”
European Union sanctions
Comments from H&M and Nike have surfaced on social media in recent days after the announcement of European Union sanctions. Last Monday, the European Union imposed sanctions on China for the first time since 1989 over human rights violations in the country. They are targeting four Chinese officials and an institution for their involvement in the atrocities against the Uyghurs.
According to the BBC, the current distortion can be traced back to a recent social media post by the Communist Youth League, in which young Chinese are studying the basics of communism. Spreading rumors of Xinjiang’s cotton boycott, while also wanting to make money in China? Wishful thinking! “This appears on Weibo, Chinese Twitter.
Uyghurs infiltrated abroad
The Uyghurs are an Islamic minority in northwest China. Human rights organizations say that more than a million of them are held in a vast network of crime and detention camps. Beijing itself speaks of “training centers” for combating extremism and terrorism.
Facebook announced today that Chinese hackers are targeting Uighur activists and journalists in countries such as Turkey, the United States, Australia, Canada, Syria and Kazakhstan. The hackers have used fake Facebook accounts and in some cases copied news sites popular with Uighurs to lure their targets into clicking on the links. This allowed hackers to secretly install spyware on their computers and cell phones.