A farmer harvests cotton in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region of China. Getty Images.
Shares of European fashion brands Adidas, Inditex and H&M fell on Thursday as they faced a storm of criticism on social media in China over comments they have previously made about Xinjiang.
Chinese state media singled out H&M on Wednesday for a statement last year in which the Swedish retailer was reported by media as saying it was deeply concerned by reports of accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang, and that it did not source products from the Chinese region. It was unclear why the H&M statement was back in the public eye.
A call by Beijing to stop foreign brands from tainting China’s name sent internet users looking for other previously issued statements by foreign retailers on Xinjiang.
Internet users said they will stop buying Nike and will support local brands such as Li Ning and Anta , while others bluntly told Adidas to leave China.
Shares in Adidas, which said earlier this month that China is set to be its fastest growth market, were down 4.5 percent at 09:11 GMT, making it the biggest loser on the German blue chip index DAX.
H&M fell as much as 2.2 percent and Inditex lost 1.6 percent. Nike shares also dropped on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, shares of Anta Sports Products Ltd jumped over 6 percent in Hong Kong on Thursday after issuing a statement saying it will continue to use cotton from Xinjiang. Li Ning Co’s shares surged over 7 percent.
Earlier this week, China denied allegations of human rights abuses by its officials in the western region of Xinjiang after the European Union, United States, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on the officials. Beijing hit back with retaliatory sanctions on European lawmakers, scholars and institutions.
H&M said on Wednesday it respected Chinese consumers and that it was committed to long-term investment and development in China. Nike, Adidas and Inditex did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
By Emma Thomasson; Editor: Kirsti Knolle