THREE Chinese celebrities are ending their contracts with German fashion house Hugo Boss due to Western accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang.
One of them, actor-singer Li Yifeng said in a statement on microblog platform Weibo, that he could only cooperate with brands that specifically support and procure cotton from the farwestern Chinese region.
Activists and U.N. rights experts have accused China of using mass detainment, torture, forced labour and sterilisations on Uighurs in Xinjiang, in which China denies the claims and says its actions in the region are necessary to counter extremism.
In its own Weibo post, Hugo Boss said it would ‘continue to purchase and support Xinjiang cotton’, only to end up deleting the post the very next day, claiming that the post was not authorised.
Instead, it issued a new statement saying it cherished all longstanding relationship with partners in China.
Chinese internet users have accused Hugo Boss for backtracking on its position, saying the brand was being “two faced”, with some vowing to boycott the brand for good.
“A two-faced person is the most disgusting. I’ll boycott you forever,” said a Weibo user.
The United States on Friday condemned what it called a “state-led” social media campaign in China against US and other international companies for deciding not to use cotton from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labour concerns.
Apart from Hugo Boss, other companies that have come under fire in China include New Balance, Under Armour, Tommy Hilfiger and Converse, owned by Nike, for statements that they would not use cotton produced in the far-western Chinese region due to suspected forced labour.
The United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which the United States has said have amounted to genocide.
“Several companies are starting to cave in to China’s threats by removing their forced labour policies from their websites, and even going as far as promoting “Xinjiang Cotton” on their websites, which reports show is tainted with Uighur forced labour,” the World Uyghur Congress said in a statement.
“This is the ultimate moral test for these companies: opt for respecting human rights or embolden the genocidal regime of the Chinese Commmunist Party,” said the largest group representing exiled ethnic Uighurs. – March 27, 2021