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US State Department Condemns Chinese Boycotts of Companies Avoiding Xinjiang Cotton

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Fashion giant H&M, Nike and other brands have been under attack from Chinese state media outlets urging consumers to boycott the brand in response to growing sanctions from Western countries, including the US, on Xinjiang, where almost 90% of China’s cotton is manufactured.

The US President Joe Biden administration on Friday condemned Chinese boycotts against international businesses avoiding using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region. 

The US and other countries have condemned Beijing for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups. The purported abuses range from forced labor to mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilizations and restrictions on religious freedoms.

“The United States condemns the PRC’s People’s Republic of China’s] state-led social-media campaign and corporate and consumer boycott against companies, including American, European and Japanese businesses [for their decisions not to use cotton from China’s Xinjiang region,” State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We commend and stand with companies that adhere to the US law and ensure products we are consuming are not made with forced labor,” she added.

The latest comments come after Chinese state broadcaster CGTN on Wednesday night called on consumers to boycott H&M for refusing to source cotton from Xinjiang. 

Other major state-media outlets also picked up and began disseminating the news. In a Thursday social media post, Chinese state-controlled People’s Daily lashed out against Nike, New Balance, Adidas and Burberry on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. In addition, the H&M store this week was blocked on the Chinese online shopping website Taobao, with H&M’s app no longer showing up in Chinese Android app stores or on Baidu or Goade online maps, The Washington Post reported.

Nike has also been under attack by China, with Yuehua Entertainment, a privately held Chinese multinational entertainment group, announcing on Thursday it had ended its endorsement contract with the brand.

“The country’s dignity cannot be violated,” said the statement from Yuehua Entertainment, the Post reported. “We resolutely safeguard the interests of the motherland.”

​On Monday, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada announced sanctions on several Chinese officials over Xinjiang.

China has pushed back against allegations that its Muslim minority is mistreated and has accused other countries of using human rights allegations to interfere in the country’s domestic issues.

“There has never has been so-called genocide, forced labor or religious oppression in Xinjiang,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month, Bloomberg reported. Such inflammatory accusations are fabricated out of ignorance and prejudice.”

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