China scrubs H&M off the country's internet
H&M's items were scrubbed from Alibaba. Baidu Maps platform, as well as Alibaba's map service, also removed the locations of H&M's 500 Chinese stores
Swedish multinational clothing-retail company H&M's online presence in China nearly disappeared amid a widespread boycott of the retailer after the recirculation of comments about forced labor made by the company last year.
H&M's items were scrubbed from Alibaba, one of China's largest online retailers, reports the Business Insider citing the to the Associated Press.
Baidu Maps platform, as well as Alibaba's map service, also removed the locations of H&M's 500 Chinese stores. H&M stores weren't appearing in the Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing either, and the H&M app was also absent from app stores.
The disappearance of H&M's online presence represents the power that China can wield over foreign retailers as Chinese companies and consumers boycott the brand and others that are criticising the government.
H&M released a statement announcing its decision to stop sourcing cotton from the Xinjiang autonomous region and said it would sever its ties with a Chinese yarn company that had been accused of forcing labor upon the Uyghur Muslim community last year.
The comment was made after the BBC reported that hundreds of thousands in the Uyghur minority were being subjected to arduous forced labor.
Reports have since emerged accusing officials of further persecuting Uyghurs with confinement in concentration camps in Xinjiang, as well as forced sterilization. Beijing has denied that account and said the camps are "reeducation centers" that offer "vocational training."
H&M said in their 2020 statement, that the company was "deeply concerned by reports from civil society organizations and media that include accusations of forced labor."
It was recirculated on the social-media platform Weibo after the US, the European Union, Britain, and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials last week over allegations of human-rights violations.
China, in turn, imposed penalties Friday on British officials, barring them from entering the country. H&M counts China as its fourth-largest market, according to Reuters, and many in China have taken issue the retailer's comments.
"Spreading rumors to boycott Xinjiang cotton while trying to make money in China? Wishful thinking!" China's Communist Youth League posted on Weibo, according to China's Global Times news outlet.
At least 11 US and European brands, including Burberry, Nike, and Adidas, are also facing fallout. Tencent said it was scrubbing costumes designed by Burberry that were worn by characters in a popular online game.