Developing: Nike, Uniqlo, Adidas Too Face Backlash over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

LONDON – After the sudden blackout on H&M in China, Nike, Uniqlo, and Adidas have slid into the hot seat as new targets over their stance to remove Xinjiang cotton out of their supply chains.

On Wednesday, the Swedish fast-fashion brand was suddenly removed from all major Chinese e-commerce platforms including Tmall, Taobao, JD.com, and Pinduoduo. Later, its mobile application was banned on Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Tencent’s China app stores, and Chinese navigation providers such as Baidu, Dianping, and AutoNavi also removed H&M’s physical store information from their platforms. Ride-hailing platform Didi, China’s version of Uber, also has blocked H&M–riders are not able to list H&M physical stores as their destination.

On Thursday morning, Weibo’s trending news ranking was dominated by Xinjiang cotton-related topics.

Nike topped the list, as the brand’s ambassador Wang Yibo’s studio announced that he is terminating his collaboration with the American sportswear giant, and said: “Our company and Wang resolutely resist any speech and behavior that tarnishes China, the dignity of the country can not be violated, and we resolutely protect the interests of the motherland.” Actress Tan Songyun later also distanced herself from Nike.

The Shanghai-based sneakers and streetwear resell platform Poizon, or Dewu in Chinese, announced that it has removed all Nike products indefinitely from Thursday midnight, but the brand is still available on other e-commerce platforms.

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In an undated statement, Nike said it “does not source products from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”

“Nike takes very seriously any reports about forced labor and we have been engaging with multi-stakeholder working groups to assess collective solutions that will help preserve the integrity of our global supply chains,” the brand added.

Adidas replaced Nike as the most trending topic on Weibo around 10:30 am Beijing time. The brand signs with far more celebrities than Nike in China, including Eason Chan, Angelababy, Jackson Yee, Jackson Wang, Liu Yifei, Peng Yu-Yan, Deng Lun, Chang Chun-Ning, Dilraba Dilmurat, Chen Linong, and Xiang Zuo.

Uniqlo drew fewer criticisms online, in comparison. The brand’s local ambassadors include Ni Ni, Lei Jiayin, and Roy Wang.

None of Adidas and Uniqlo’s ambassadors have made any announcements to distance themselves from the brands so far, and their online stores are still searchable across Chinese e-commerce channels at press time.

These brands’ decision to stop using cotton from China’s Xinjiang region was rooted in concerns over reports of mass forced labor camps in the region. At the start of the year, the U.S. government stated that Beijing’s repression of Uighur and other Muslims in the region constituted “genocide.”

While these companies addressed the issue some time ago, the sudden targeting seems to be in retaliation to the ratcheting up of tensions over the issue in recent days. The U.S., Canada, the U.K., and the European Union, coordinated this week for the first time to condemn the country’s alleged human rights violations toward Xinjiang’s Uighur minority and launched sanctions on some Chinese government-affiliated individuals.

Meanwhile, pro-Xinjiang cotton hashtags–Xinjiang’s snow white cotton, Xinjiang cotton can barely meet China’s demand alone, and Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning puts made in Xinjiang cotton on its labels as proof for premium quality, were also trending.

At the same time, Chinese sportswear group Anta announced that it is withdrawing from the Better Cotton Initiative, saying the organization’s recent statement is “seriously concerning.”

“We have always sourced and used cotton from China’s cotton-producing regions, including Xinjiang cotton, and will continue to source and use Chinese cotton in the future,” the brand added.

Japanese slow-living retailer Muji added Xinjiang cotton as a keyword in its product descriptions across e-commerce channels on Wednesday evening in response to the recent debacle.

Hu Xijing, editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated newspaper Global Times, wrote on Weibo that: “When you enter a country, follow the customs. Their rules and habits over in the west need to adhere to the principles of Chinese society. The statements made by H&M and Nike to the Western society are now colliding with the attitudes of the Chinese public.”

Related:

H&M Removed From All Major Chinese Platforms Over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

Did Xinjiang Cotton Crisis Up Stakes for Traceability?

‘Made in China’ Book Spotlights Forced Uighur Labor 

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U.S. Bans Xinjiang Cotton to Combat Slave Labor

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