H&M says China is ‘very important market’ in the wake of mainland-led boycotts over Xinjiang cotton stance

Swedish retailer H&M said in a vaguely-worded statement that it is committed to its operations in China. Photo: Unsplash/itssecondkaki
Swedish retailer H&M said in a vaguely-worded statement that it is committed to its operations in China. Photo: Unsplash/itssecondkaki

Clothing chain H&M expressed commitment to doing business in China, emphasizing that it is a “very important market” in the wake of nationalistic backlash from mainland Chinese consumers over the brand’s old comments about Xinjiang cotton production.

“We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China,” the company wrote in on its website Wednesday.

“By working together with stakeholders and partners, we believe we can take steps in our joint efforts to develop the fashion industry, as well as serve our customers and act in a respectful way,” it added.

H&M’s statement comes about a week after comments from last year—in which the brand expressed concern over claims of forced labor in Xinjiang—resurfaced on social media platforms used in mainland China.

Since then, netizens have threatened to boycott the retail chain, accusing it of “smearing China” and “spreading rumors.”

Stores in some Chinese cities have even been shut by their landlords, Bloomberg reported, although it is unclear how long the closures will last.

The statement, laden with middle-of-the-road PR speak, does not mention Xinjiang cotton or whether the company is procuring raw materials from the far-western Chinese region.

In a post on its official Weibo page last Wednesday, H&M said it does not represent any political stance.

Read more: Cantopop star Eason Chan severs relationship with Adidas after brand raises concerns over forced labor in Xinjiang

The Swedish retailer is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, a global sustainability program that said last October that it would pull out from Xinjiang due to reports about labor conditions and human rights abuses there.

Other brands, including Nike, Adidas and Burberry, are also members of the initiative. They have faced similar backlash on Chinese social media.

H&M has 505 stores across China. It opened its first outlet in the country in 2007 with a store in Shanghai.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: BUSINESS, POLITICS

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