Uniqlo’s products have been blocked from entering the US over suspicions they were made from cotton produced by forced labour in China.
In a move likely to increase tensions between the US and China, which continues to maintain a boycott on many western brands including Nike, Adidas and H&M, the US customs agency has blocked products from Asia’s largest fashion retailer.
Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo, saw a shipment of cotton men’s shirts held at the port of Los Angeles on May 10.
The shipment was stopped for violating an order prohibiting the importation of goods suspected to have been produced by forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region, where numerous reports suggest Uighur Muslims are forced to pick cotton.
Despite Uniqlo reportedly denying the cotton came from Xinjiang, US customs documents state that it failed to provide enough information to prove this.
Uniqlo has also been put on China’s ‘black list’ of brands which it has accused of spreading “lies and disinformation” about the country.
The boycott, largely thought to have been engineered by Chinese authorities, began 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 anti-Chinese messages, and have been shunned by shoppers, ecommerce platforms and landlords.
The US has accused China of running a state-sponsored “corporate and consumer boycott” against all Western brands that have refused to use cotton from the Xinjiang region.