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China attacks foreign clothing, shoe brands over Xinjiang

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A man wearing a face mask walks by a Swedish fashion brand H&M store outlet in Beijing, Thursday, March 25, 2021. Chinas ruling Communist Party is lashing out at H&M and other clothing and footwear brands as it retaliates for Western sanctions imposed on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING – Chinese state TV called Thursday for a boycott of H&M as Beijing lashed out at foreign clothing and footwear brands following Western sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

The ruling Communist Party criticized H&M for saying in March 2020 it would stop buying cotton from the northwestern Chinese region. The Swedish retailer joined other brands in expressing concern about reports of forced labor there.

The party newspaper Global Times also criticized statements by Burberry, Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Zara about Xinjiang as early as two years ago.

“For enterprises that touch the bottom line of our country, the response is very clear: don’t buy!” China Central Television said on its social media account. It said the ‘H’ and ‘M’ in the Swedish name stood for Chinese words meaning lie and falsehood.

The attacks follow Monday’s decision by the 27-nation European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada to impose travel and financial sanctions on four Chinese officials blamed for abuses in Xinjiang.

More than 1 million people in Xinjiang, most of them from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, have been confined to work camps, according to foreign researchers and governments. Beijing denies mistreating them and says it is trying to promote economic development and stamp out radicalism.

“The so-called existence of forced labor in the Xinjiang region is totally fictitious,” said a Commerce Ministry spokesman, Gao Feng. He called on foreign companies to “correct wrong practices” but did not say what they were expected to do.

Celebrities including Wang Yibo, a popular singer and actor, announced they were breaking endorsement contracts with H&M and Nike.