Swedish group H&M, which owns the second-largest clothing chain in the world, has released an official statement on the situation in China. In it, the company announced that it is working with Chinese colleagues and is doing everything possible to cope with current problems but does not provide any specifics.
Recall that recently, H&M was at the center of a scandal over its decision to abandon cotton purchases in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region due to allegations of massive, forced labor camps in the region. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) thinks tank, delivered in March, distinguished H&M as one of the recipients of a constrained work program through colored yarn maker Huafu, which possesses an industrial facility in eastern China's Anhui territory.
Who are the Uyghurs?
The Uyghur minority lives in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. They make up 45% of the area's population and 40% are ethnic Han people. In total, about 10 million Uyghurs live in China.
Since China regained control of the region in 1949, many ethnic Han Chinese have migrated to Xinjiang, which is why the Uyghurs are now worried about the possible crowding out of their own culture.
What is known about the situation of the Uyghurs in China?
Activists who fight for the rights of the Uyghurs say Beijing discriminates against them. One example is their so-called re-education. According to the testimony of journalists and human rights activists, the Uyghurs are being isolated in "educational camps." Some are sent to their hometowns "under arrest."
According to Reuters, citing UN activists and experts, 1 million Muslim Uighurs are being held in Chinese camps. China denies this and claims that these camps are merely providing vocational training for people.
The researchers say that activists are in constant fear of possible harassment. In addition to such violations of rights, everyday discrimination is also used against Uighurs, making the minority feel like second-class people. For example, Uighurs may be refused a hotel room.
H&M is determined to overcome the crisis
The company said it does not work with any garment manufacturer in the region and will no longer buy cotton from Xinjiang, which is China's largest manufacturing region. However, the Swedish group admitted that it had “indirect commercial relations with a factory” located in Shangyu, Zhejiang Province (southern China) and owned by Huafu Fashion.
Recently, against the backdrop of growing tensions between China and the West, angry calls to boycott H&M began to appear on Chinese social media. A few Chinese influencers and celebrities quickly quit teaming up with the organization, while the brand's items vanished from major online stores in China.
As a result, a boycott of the retailer was declared in China - it was blocked access to all major Chinese platforms, including Tmall, Taobao, JD, and Pinduoduo, and some landlords forced the company to close physical stores as well - according to H&M, about 20 outlets are now closed in the country.
The wave of consumer boycotts in China coincided with an agreed set of sanctions imposed by the UK, Canada, the European Union, and the United States last week for what they say is a violation of hum