H&M has said it is “dedicated to regaining the trust” of China after all evidence of its existence was deleted online and landlords shut its stores across the country.
The Swedish fast-fashion retailer has faced an abrupt and fervent backlash in China after it became one of many western brands to be boycotted in response to new sanctions on the country.
Retail landlords have reportedly shut down at least six H&M stores in Urumqi, Yinchuan, Changchun and Lianyungang over the last week, while local Chinese media has reported even more store closures, including images of H&M’s branding and billboards being removed from facias.
H&M was also completely scrubbed from China’s internet, seeing all 500 of its stores wiped from map services, its app deleted from app stores, and its products removed from marketplaces like Alibaba.
Yesterday H&M released a blog post, stating that it was “working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward”.
The boycott started last week when the UK, EU, US and Canada voted to impose sanctions on China amid ongoing reports of forced labour, mass sterilisation of women and a raft of other human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
In response to the sanctions, any brands who have stopped using cotton from the region or spoken out against alleged forced labour have been accused of spreading “lies and disinformation” about China and added to a ‘blacklist’.
Last year H&M stated it was “deeply concerned by reports from civil society organisations and media that include accusations of forced labour”, pledging to stop using cotton from Xinjiang.
In its statement made yesterday, H&M said: “We want to be a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere, and are now building forward-looking strategies and actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing.
“Together with all relevant stakeholders, we want to collaborate to be part of the solution and jointly build a more sustainable fashion industry.
“As a global company, we comply with local laws and regulatory frameworks in all the markets where we operate. Our company values are built on trust, respect, integrity, and dialogue. We wish to focus on our core business and on what we do best – bringing fashion and design to our customers all around the world.”