The statement on the website of Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a Switzerland-based cotton organisation, about forced labour in Xinjiang disappeared, whilst H&M’s remains unchanged.
The China Office of the organisation said in March they have conducted second-party credibility investigation and third-party verification since its registration in 2012, but found no case of “forced labour” in Xinjiang. There was no more clear information afterwards to suggest whether this statement could represent the official attitude of BCI headquarters.
After contacting with BCI, the reporter Yijun got no response. “There is currently no BCI spokesperson available to speak on this topic,” said Joe Woodruff, the communications manager of the organisation, “I’m afraid that right now we cannot provide a timeframe.”
However, the UK government has still been urged to ban the import from Xinjiang. And firms doing business in China must prove that they don’t source products linked to forced labour, or they will be fined. And other western countries, such as US and Canada, have also imposed sanctions on Chinese officials.
According to the statement on H&M’s official website, the company claims that they do not “work with any garment manufacturing factories located in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and do not “source products from this region”.
In China, products of H&M have vanished from Chinese tech titan Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao, and its physical stores have also been blocked on some digital maps. But China is H&M’s fourth-biggest market with sales of 9.75 billion Swedish crowns (£0.83 billion) in the 12 months through November 2020.
“The company does not represent any political stance,” H&M China said on the Weibo social media platform. “We have always respected Chinese customers and are committed to long-term investment and development in the country.”
This statement, without mentioning any issues about Xinjiang cotton, is in marked contrast to the straightforwardness in the English-version and has been criticised for riding off on side issues by Chinese media.
“Making rumours to boycott Xinjiang cotton while trying to make money in China? Fond dream!” the official account of the Communist Youth League commented on Weibo.
When asked by the reporter about whether H&M still boycotts Xinjiang cotton under the circumstance that BCI’s statement was missing, Jolin Nordström, who works at the company’s communication department, immediately qualified the statement with the formulation. “We wish we had the possibility to help all students with their projects, but unfortunately we don’t have the time and resources to do so,” he said.