Swedish fashion retailer H&M, apparel companies Nike and adidas, and others are facing backlash from Chinese consumers and the government as company statements of concern about “forced labor” of the Muslim Uighur people in the cotton fields of the Xinjiang region of China make the rounds on Chinese social media. These and other Western fashion companies may face boycotts and public ostracization from the Chinese public, businesses, the government, prominent Chinese entertainment icons, or all of the above.
The statements are being highlighted by Chinese consumers and youth groups such as the Communist Youth Group on social media like Weibo and, in H&M’s case, several companies including multiple platform holders and e-commerce sites have removed the company from its offerings altogether.
Nike wrote in an undated statement that it was “concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”
H&M issued a similar statement, but that appears to be offline as of this writing (You can read a screen capture of it here).
Several Chinese actors and actresses have announced that they have ended their partnerships with Nike, including Yibo Wang and Songyu Tan. Wang is also the brand spokesperson of Tencent’s mobile esports title Peacekeeper Elite (the Chinese clone of PUBG Mobile created for China by Tencent).
The situation is the result of several Western countries putting sanctions on Chinese officials this week over their labor practices in the region. Governments involved include Britain, Canada, the European Union, and the United States. China has retaliated with sanctions of its own against those countries, and businesses in China are taking aim at Western apparel makers that have spoken publicly about the situation.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Flordia) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) introduced a resolution condemning China for its treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and called for an “international investigation into the abuses and crimes being committed.”
Nike is of particular interest to the esports industry in China, as it holds a lucrative sponsorship deal with TJ Sports (a joint operation between Riot Games and Tencent) for the League of Legends Pro League. Both Nike and adidas are long-term sponsors of China’s professional soccer, basketball, and volleyball teams. Nike is also the apparel sponsor of the Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL).
Beyond the LPL, organizations like G2 Esports, which has a deal with adidas, might have to alter their apparel or exclude any mention of the sponsor in order to compete in China-based competitions, as an example.
This story is developing…