World Media

China sanctions British politicians over Uighur criticism

H&M logo hangs on display outside a H&M store on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street

Nike and Adidas came under attack on Chinese social media on Thursday over past comments the fashion brands have made about labour conditions in Xinjiang, part of a diplomatic row between China and the West.

Nike as well as H&M made the statements a year ago, but the story gained public attention just recently after a pro-government group, the Communist Youth League, posted the remarks on its page on the social media site Weibo.

Actor Huang Xuan said on his official Weibo social media page he had terminated his contract as a representative for H&M, saying he opposed "slander and creating rumors".

Both Nike and Adidas, which have been growing rapidly in China, have said previously that they do not source products or yarn from the Xinjiang region.

Uniqlo. Major clothing and footwear brands are under attack in China after Europe, the US and other countries sanctioned Chinese officials this week over alleged human rights abuses.

China has issued more retaliatory sanctions over Xinjiang, targeting individuals and entities in the United Kingdom it says "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" regarding Beijing's treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

Chinese state media singled out H&M on Wednesday for a statement past year in which the Swedish retailer was reported by media as saying it was deeply concerned by reports of accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang, and that it did not source products from the Chinese region.

China is H&M's fourth-biggest market with sales of 2.9 billion Swedish crowns ($339 million) in the 12 months through November 2020.

State tabloid Global Times said Spain's Inditex, owner of Zara, had "quietly removed" a statement on Xinjiang from its English and Spanish-language websites.

Inditex did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

BCI members include Nike, Adidas, H&M and Japan's Fast Retailing.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly refuted allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang's cotton production industry, saying the report was fabricated by German anthropologist Adrian Zenz. "Either Adidas quits BCI, or get out of China", one internet user wrote. The official People's Daily reported that searches for H&M products on platforms and Pinduoduo no longer showed any results.

Xinjiang cotton "won't swallow this", the League said. The retailer's official store on Alibaba's Tmall, an e-commerce platform, was inaccessible.

For emphasis, she held up a black-and-white photo that she said depicted black slaves harvesting cotton in the United States and compared it to a bright, colour photograph of a cotton field under a blue sky in Xinjiang region.

H&M China said on Wednesday that its global supply chain is managed to comply with sustainability commitments, not to reflect any political position.

Xinjiang has promoted the application of green agricultural machinery and technologies and actively introduced advanced intelligent agricultural machinery and equipment, including cotton picking machines, high-power tractors, plasma dosing machines, intelligent precise fertilizer matching machines, satellite navigation and automatic driving and unmanned plant protecting machines.