Ordinary Chinese and Chinese media attack firms that boycott Xinjiang cotton

Cotton producers in China's autonomous region are accused of exploiting forced Uyghur labour and other Muslim minorities. Communist youth start a campaign to boycott Western clothing brands. Beijing is flexing its economic muscles to block US and European sanctions.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Ordinary Chinese, Chinese state media and Chinese celebrities have lashed out at Western clothing giants who refuse to buy Xinjiang cotton.

Cotton producers in China's autonomous region are accused of exploiting the forced Uyghur labour f and other Turkic and Muslim minorities.

US-based Nike and Sweden's H&M are the first targets of the boycott campaign. Adidas, New Balance, Burberry, Puma and Gap are also in the crosshairs.

Some of these firms had announced as recently as last year that they would stop buying cotton from Xinjiang.

The attacks against them came after the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada decided on 22 March to impose sanctions on China for human rights violations in Xinjiang.

According to expert data, confirmed by the United Nations, China is holding or has held more than one million Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang, which Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz call East Turkestan.

Recent media revelations have also highlighted the existence of labour camps in China's autonomous region, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are forced to work, especially picking cotton.

According to German researcher Adrian Zenz, in Xinjiang some garment factories are built next to internment camps. Satellite imagery show masses of people in uniform moving from one site to another.

The Chinese government has denied all the charges, claiming that those in Xinjiang are vocational centres, part of a project to reduce poverty and fight against terrorism and separatism.

The protests against Western brands began yesterday with a post on Weibo, China's best-known microblogging platform, by the Communist Youth League.

The Communist Party youth organisation wrote that H&M cannot “boycott Xinjiang cotton, while also wanting to make money in China.”

State media followed the young Communists’ lead. CCTV said H&M will “pay a heavy price for its wrong actions.” Later, at least three major Chinese e-commerce platforms – Pinduoduo, JD.com and Tmall – stopped selling H&M products.

Various Chinese celebrities announced that they were severing ties with the brands, with one noting that “the country's interests are above all”.

In fact, mainland China is feeling the pressure. The US and the EU seem increasingly willing to coordinate their initiatives against it.

The Chinese government has responded to Xinjiang-related sanctions with punitive countermeasures against EU entities and Members of the European parliament, as well as European politicians, academics and research centres.

Targeting Western companies is another retaliatory measure designed to convince business groups and the general public in the United States and Europe that it is not convenient to challenge China.