BEIJING: Chinese celebrities have ditched several overseas retail brands, including six U.S. brands like Nike, as western concerns about labor conditions in Xinjiang spark patriotic consumer backlash.
New Balance, Under Armor, Tommy Hilfiger and Converse, owned by Nike, have come under fire in China for not using cotton produced in far west China due to suspected forced labor.
Activists and UN legal experts have accused China of mass detention, torture, forced labor and sterilization against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. China denies these claims, saying that its action in the region is necessary to counter extremism.
At least 27 Chinese movie stars and singers have announced in the past two days that they will stop working with foreign brands.
Her decision was widely praised as patriotic by Chinese Internet users and was highly valued on the popular Twitter-like microblog, Weibo.
“I have bought these types of products in the past and this situation does not mean that I should throw them away, destroy them or anything like that now,” said Lucy Liu, a graduate at a mall in Beijing.
“What I’m going to do is just avoid buying them for now.”
Some of the brands are members of the Better Cotton Initiative, a group committed to sustainable cotton production. In October, she announced that she would suspend the approval of cotton from Xinjiang, citing rights concerns.
Some of the Uighur artists were among the celebrities who ended their pacts with foreign brands.
Other brands affected are Burberry, Adidas, Puma, H&M and Uniqlo from Fast Retailing.
“I can confirm that Uniqlo’s Chinese brand ambassadors have terminated their contracts,” said a Fast Retailing spokesman.
“When it comes to cotton, we only source sustainable cotton, and that hasn’t changed.”
The other companies did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comments.
Hong Kong pop singer Eason Chan said on Weibo that he would stop working with Adidas and that he was “firmly against any actions that tarnish China”.
The post was liked by nearly 800,000 Weibo users.
“I know you won’t let us down!” one of them wrote. “I’m from Xinjiang.”
Wang Xue, a 21-year-old student who visited Beijing, said she likes to buy comfortable clothes that make her happy.
“As long as they (these brands) don’t offend China, I’ll be fine with them,” she said. “But if so, then I will definitely boycott them.”