Daily US Times: Retail giants H&M and Nike are facing a backlash in China after the brands expressed concern about the alleged use of forced minority Muslim Uighur labour in the production of Xinjiang cotton.
Many Chinese have called for boycotting H&M and Nike, celebrities have cut ties, and e-commerce platforms have dropped H&M.
It comes as several Western countries this week imposed sanctions on China.
China is accused of committing serious human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, but the country has always denied that.
The sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, target senior officials in the north-west region.
The BBC published in an investigation in December based on new research showing Beijing was forcing hundreds of thousands of minorities including Uighurs into manual labour in Xinjiang’s cotton fields.
The statements in question were made by H&M and Nike last year, but only resurfaced in recent days after the announcement of Western sanctions.
In separate statements, both companies had said that they were “concerned” about reports that Uighurs were being forced to pick cotton in Xinjiang, and that they did not source products from the region.
As their previous statements reappear, state media outlets have launched campaigns defending Xinjiang cotton and criticising the brands.
Chinese state media CGTN shared a video on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo claiming to show the reality of cotton-picking in Xinjiang province, which involved automation and quotes from a Uighur farmer saying that people “fought” to work there for high earnings.
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