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Nike And H&M Stand Up To Chicoms

A courageous move by the companies.

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It is rare to see a firm as big as Nike or H&M consign business relations with a business partner like China to a backseat in favor of human rights. It is especially interesting, as the Chinese are well known to be extremely sensitive on the subject, lest they look like a backward authoritarian nation, which they are, and thus lose face in the international community.

FNC: “Anger with Nike Inc erupted on Chinese social media late on Wednesday after China’s netizens spotted a statement from the sporting goods giant saying it was ‘concerned’ about reports of forced labour in Xinjiang and that it does not use cotton from the region. Topics around the Nike statement were among the highest trending on China’s Twitter-like social media Weibo on Thursday, and the social media backlash had a wider fallout. Popular Chinese actor Popular Chinese actor Wang Yibo terminated his contract as a representative for Nike in response to social media criticism over the company’s Xinjiang statement, his agency said on Weibo on Thursday.

“It was unclear when Nike had put out the statement, which did not have a date on it. Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The social media fallout comes as relations between the United States and China have deteriorated in recent years. In the latest development, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China retaliated with sanctions on European lawmakers and institutions.

“Earlier this week, at least one Chinese online retailer appeared to drop H&M’s products amid social media attacks on the Swedish company for saying it was ‘deeply concerned’ about reports of forced labour in Xinjiang. Activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations in Xinjiang. China has denied these claims and says it is providing vocational training, and that its measures are needed to fight extremism.” Vocational training in how to survive torture.

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“We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR),” Nike said in the statement. “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.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times told Western firms on Wednesday to be “highly cautious” and not to “suppress China’s Xinjiang” in a social media post. How does Western concern “suppress” Xinjiang? Someone needs a better English dictionary.

Doing so would “undoubtedly arouse the anger of the Chinese public,” he added. A public beaten into message submission. Also, in social media post about H&M, China’s Communist Youth League denounced the company’s stance.

“Spreading rumors to boycott Xinjiang cotton, while trying to make a profit in China? Wishful thinking!” the post said. Rumors? You can do better than that. Weibo, Chinese Twitter, insisted posts containing the hashtag “I support Xinjiang cotton” gained more than 4 billion views. The world population is just shy of 8 billion. So you’re telling me half the world’s population viewed that post?

“H&M clothes are rags,” said one of the supposedly most-liked Weibo comments . “They don’t deserve our Xinjiang cotton!” said another. It looks like they somehow resurrected an Albanian propagandist circa 1961 to handle the H&M desk. Really Beijing, try harder. Your backwards educational system is showing.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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