H&M blasted on Chinese social media for stopping use of Xinjiang cotton

Chinese Net users have called for a boycott of H&M because it won't use cotton from Xinjiang. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese Net users have called for a boycott of Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) because it won't use cotton from Xinjiang, thrusting the world's second-largest clothing retailer into the Asian nation's human rights controversy.

Users of China's Twitter-like Weibo platform singled out the Swedish multinational after finding a statement on its website saying it has stopped sourcing cotton from the far western region.

The undated statement said that H&M is "deeply concerned by reports from civil society organisations and media that include accusations of forced labour and discrimination of ethno-religious minorities".

The Communist Youth League, the ruling Communist Party's organisation for young people, took to Weibo on Wednesday (March 24) to criticise H&M for "finding faults with Xinjiang cotton".

"Want to make money in China while spreading false rumours and boycotting Xinjiang cotton? Wishful thinking!" it said in a post.

One of the People's Liberation Army's Weibo accounts called H&M's statement "ignorant and arrogant".

And two Chinese celebrities who previously represented H&M issued statements saying they no longer have any ties with it, adding that they oppose "attempts to smear China".

The United States and some other Western governments accuse China of sending up to one million Muslim Uighurs to internment camps and forcing them to work.

The US, Britain, Canada and the European Union imposed sanctions on China over alleged human rights abuses this week, prompting Beijing to retaliate with sanctions of its own.

China categorically denies all allegations regarding Xinjiang Uighurs as "lies".

Beijing says it is lifting the region out of poverty, building infrastructure to improve the economy and ensuring children receive educations.

The government says these efforts help it counter extremism in the region.

H&M did not immediately reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Foreign companies operating in the Asian nation are often compelled to balance the demands of China - and its huge market - with concerns in their home nations.

Last week, Apple Inc cut ties with Chinese supplier Ofilm Group Co over allegations it is involved in a government programme that transfers minorities from Xinjiang to other parts of the country for work, a person familiar with the matter said.

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