Popular shoe brands Nike and Adidas have landed themselves in trouble on Chinese social media on Thursday over past comments the fashion brands have made about labour conditions in Xinjiang, part of a diplomatic row between China and the West.
According to a report by Reuters, the sportswear companies were the latest caught up in a backlash prompted by a Chinese government call to stop foreign brands from tainting China`s name as internet users found statements they had made in the past on Xinjiang.
Chinese state media had singled out H&M on Wednesday over a statement reported last year where the Swedish fashion retailer said it was deeply concerned by reports of accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang, and that it did not source products from the Chinese region.
Topics around the Nike statement were among the highest trending on China’s Twitter-like social media Weibo on Thursday, and the social media backlash had a wider fallout.
Popular Chinese actor Wang Yibo terminated his contract as a representative for Nike in response to social media criticism over the company’s Xinjiang statement.
“We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR),” Nike said in a statement.
“Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.” it added.
The social media fallout comes as relations between the United States and China have deteriorated in recent years.
In the latest development, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times urged Western companies on Wednesday to be “highly cautious” and not to “suppress China’s Xinjiang” in a social media post.