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Human Rights abuses against Uyghurs: Top brands like H & M, NIKE face boycott in China

China lashes out at Western brands that have reacted to the human rights violations faced by Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region of China. Big Western apparel brands H&M, Nike, Calvin Klein, Adidas, Burberry and Converse are facing a boycott in China because of the concern they have shown for the workers who are forced to work in labor camps.

Human rights groups have previously alleged that at least one million workers, including Uyghur Muslims and other minorities are being housed in Chinese camps and forced to work to produce cotton. It is alleged that the people in the camp are being denied even basic fundamental rights.  Cotton garments from these job camps are mainly exported to leading brands in western countries.

H&M and Nike voiced their concern about the human rights violation in these labor camps months ago. But the social media attack on them came when the Communist Party’s Youth League on Wednesday called attention on its social media account to an H&M statement made last year. H&M said that it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang.

Reacting to this statement China’s state television commented that, “How can H&M eat Chinese rice and then smash China’s pot?”

Swedish multinational H&M, the world’s second-largest clothing retailer, has been pulled from major e-commerce stores like Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD). Actor Huang Xuan publicly said he will no longer work with the company. He was the brand ambassador for H&M since last April.

Nike was also targeted on social media soon after this. Nike stated that, “Nike does not source products from [Xinjiang] and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”  Chinese singer and actor Wang Yibo said that he had cut ties with Nike soon after Nike statement appeared on Weibo.

The concern about the human rights violations in Xinjiang has escalated tension between China and many major Western powers.  On Monday the 27-nation European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada jointly announced that have imposed new sanctions on officials in Xinjiang over their role in alleged human rights abuses there.  Beijing in turn responded with its sanctions on EU politicians and entities, saying they were “maliciously spreading lies.”

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