The United States on Friday condemned a “boycott” campaign by Beijing against foreign brands that have declined to use cotton grown in China’s Xinjiang region due to reports of rights abuses there.
“The US condemns the PRC… social media campaign and corporate and consumer boycott against companies, including American, European and Japanese businesses,” said State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
At least one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in northwestern Xinjiang, according to rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor.
“We commend and stand with companies that adhere to the US laws, and ensure products we’re consuming are not made with forced labor,” Porter said.
A number of clothing companies such as Sweden’s H&M, American sportswear giant Nike, Germany’s Adidas and Japan’s Uniqlo pledged last year to boycott cotton from Xinjiang.
The old statements resurfaced this week on Chinese-owned social network Weibo, triggering the controversy.
Several Chinese celebrities and tech firms have subsequently pulled partnerships with many of the brands from Nike and H&M to Burberry and Calvin Klein — with Beijing seen as fuelling the social media war.