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A number of Chinese and Hong Kong celebrities have cut ties with western brands including H&M, Nike and Adidas.
This was after past statements of the brands resurfaced on Chinese social media, saying that they would not use Xinjiang cotton over concerns of alleged forced labour.
Western brands facing backlash in China for refusing to use Xinjiang cotton
Chinese netizens dug up a statement that clothing retailer H&M made a year ago on the Xinjiang province, which said they do not source cotton from Xinjiang due to concerns that "forced labour" is being used there to produce the material.
This resulted in widespread calls for the boycott of the brand on Weibo.
Nike and Adidas subsequently found themselves on the boycott list due to their refusal to use Xinjiang cotton as well.
According to Chinese state media Global Times, Nike stated that it will not allow its suppliers to recruit Uygurs or other ethnic minorities.
Chinese and HK celebrities terminate contracts with such brands
Since then, over 30 celebrities, including GOT7's Jackson Wang and famed Uyghur actress Dilraba Dilmurat (Dilireba) have denounced the brands to show support for cotton products from Xinjiang, in the wake of the whole controversy.
Along with many other Chinese celebrities, Dilmurat announced on Mar. 25 that she was terminating her contract with Adidas, and will oppose any attempt to smear China's name.
Hong Kong singer Eason Chan also announced that he was terminating his contract as a brand ambassador with Adidas as well. This drew backlash from fans, with some calling him out for "turning a blind eye to human rights" to make money in China, reported SCMP.
He may also be required to pay Adidas damages amounting HK$60 million (S$10.4 million), for breaking his contract with the brand, according to reports by Hong Kong media.
Brands supporting Xinjiang cotton face backlash from international audience
On the other end of the spectrum, companies that have announced that they will continue to use Xinjiang cotton are facing their side of the backlash from the international audience on social media platforms such as Twitter.
Hashtags such as #boycottxinjiangcotton have been trending, with users calling out companies for using cotton from Xinjiang.
According to Global Times, Muji China said that the company has conducted an audit on Xinjiang factories that supply their products, and "found no significant issues". The brand has stated clearly that they are using Xinjiang cotton.
Brands such as Muji are facing strong criticism internationally due to their stance on the controversy.
Never thought I'd say this, but from today I will boycott a brand that I loved and will call on others to do the same. #boycottmuji #boycottxinjiangcotton— Alias (@Alias55514004) March 26, 2021
Shame on MUJI who is using #Xinjiang #BloodCotton !— Eden Lien (@eden_lien) April 1, 2021
Call for world brands take up social responsibility, #boycottxinjiangcotton and #StandWithHumanity !
Say no to #Genocide to #Uyghurs #StandWithXinJiang https://t.co/weUJWJdXw5
Brands that have stated their refusal to use Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand, have also garnered support from some on Twitter.
Respect to @Nike @hm @Converse@Burberry and @Adidas— JayKay (@jaykay106) March 30, 2021
I'm going out to spend some money at these places to show my support. #boycottxinjiangcotton
We stand with Nike,H&M,Burberry,Adidas #boycottxinjiangcotton #MilkTeaAllianceMyanmar #ZARA Repost the statement &boycott xinjiang cotton.— Khaing Pyi Shan (@KhaingPyiShan) March 30, 2021
Some have also criticised the circulating of "Chinese propaganda" showing happy Uyghur people dancing while picking cotton, appearing to depict that there is "no forced labour".
China's propaganda has already started to against #boycottxinjiangcotton.— Aynur (@Aynur35423962) March 29, 2021
Happy Uyghurs are dancing and enjoying picking cotton that there is no forced labor. For brutal China's regime, anyone who can only play dance is the happiest person in the world. pic.twitter.com/6Wkcg2O0Uj
Backlash follows Western-imposed sanctions
The call for boycott of Nike, Adidas and other western brands comes in the wake of the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposing sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The move was largely symbolic as the sanctions are not expected to influence China's behaviour or impact its economy.
However, they represent a coordinated Western move against China since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. Biden has pledged to fight China by building on American allies.
China has since retaliated with sanctions of its own on European lawmakers and institutions, and said the move was "based on nothing but lies and disinformation".
Top image collage via Wikipedia, Unsplash, love.easonchan.0727/Instagram
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