Nike and Adidas on Thursday joined various western brands that are under fire in Chinese social media for comments they’ve made on the Chinese region, Xinjiang. Home to a vast number of Muslim Uyghurs, Xinjiang has come under scrutiny for allegations of human rights abuse and forcing Muslim minorities into work camps.
However, the Chinese government has denied these allegations and is calling for these companies to “correct wrong practices”. According to Global Times, Gao Feng, a Commerce Ministry spokesman, said, “The so-called existence of forced labor in the Xinjiang region is totally fictitious.”
The heat towards foreign brands began with Swedish fashion company H&M, when the ruling party’s Youth League called attention to the company’s statement from March 2020, where it had said that it did not source products from Xinjiang and was concerned over the reports of forced labour.
Besides H&M, Nike, and Adidas, brands like GAP, UNIQLO, Inditex, and New Balance have also made statements on Xinjiang, which go as far back as two years ago.
Chinese celebrities, actors, and idols are now dropping their contracts with these brands, including Wang Yibo, Eason Chan, among many others. Meanwhile, the shares for H&M, Adidas, and Inditex fell on Thursday as those of local Chinese companies such as Anta Sports Products and Li Ning Co’s surged.
Though H&M released a statement on Wednesday stating it respected its Chinese customers, it was nowhere to be found on Baidu Maps and Chinese e-commerce platforms by the next day.
With the social media heat from China and the pressure from activists in the west, it’s unsure what the next step will be for these brands.