The Swedish fashion retailer H&M has recently faced a broad boycott in China with stores forced closed and their addresses removed from maps. According to several news reports, the boycott was initiated by the Communist Party’s youth union but according to China’s Ambassador to Sweden Gui Congyou, it is the Chinese people, not the Communist Party, who are behind the boycott.
In a comment to local media Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), Ambassador Gui Congyou writes that there are “almost one billion independent internet users in China who care about the country’s national interests”. The government “acts on the will of the people” who can not be defied.
The Ambassador claims that there have never been any problems with cotton from the province of Xinjiang, which is what the controversy initially started with when H&M in an undated statement said the company would stop buying cotton from Xinjiang due to suspicions of forced labor in the province. The Ambassador writes to SvD that all work in China is performed “voluntarily and is paid.”
China expert Jerker Hellström, head of the Swedish Center for China Studies (SCCS), has previously told SvD that he believes the boycott is government-controlled in one way or another and is due to the sanctions imposed by the EU against Chinese officials accused of human rights violations and Xinjiang. “The whole thing is seen in Beijing as a Western conspiracy against China. What is happening now is a symbolic act,” he recently told the newspaper.