Chinese diplomats and state media promote “spontaneous” boycott of H&M and other clothing brands over Xinjiang

In the second half of March 2021, Chinese netizens resurfaced old statements by several clothing companies, including H&M, Nike, and Burberry, expressing concern about allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang’s cotton industry. The online outrage was notably fanned by groups like the Communist Youth League, the CCP’s youth arm. On March 26, a spokesperson for Xinjiang’s local government declared that “Can H&M continue to make money in the Chinese market? Not anymore.” Chinese diplomats and state media closely covered the boycott, repeatedly showing empty H&M shops and interviewing indignant Chinese consumers. H&M’s listings were wiped off popular Chinese shopping apps and the geo-locations of the Swedish brand’s stores were also deleted, making it impossible for users to search them. Since the incident, some brands, like Zara’s parent company, have pre-emptively taken down statements about Xinjiang from their websites.

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Date: 19-31 March 2021
Country: Sweden