BEIJING – The Chinese government has accused H&M, Nike, Zara and other brands of importing unsafe or poor quality children's clothes and other goods, adding to headaches for foreign companies after Beijing attacked them over complaints about possible forced labor in the country’s northwest.
A list of “quality and safety unqualified” products from 16 companies including T-shirts, toys and toothbrushes was released by the customs agency to mark International Children's Day this week.
The announcement is a setback for foreign brands that were attacked by state media in March following accusations by governments and human rights groups that Beijing uses forced labor in Xinjiang in China's northwest.
State TV called for a boycott of H&M over a statement issued a year earlier saying it would no longer use cotton from Xinjiang. Official media publicized criticism of others for expressing concern about possible forced labor.
H&M goods were removed from Chinese e-commerce platforms while app stores dropped apps for that company, Nike and Adidas. Celebrities pulled out of endorsement deals.
Product safety is especially sensitive in China following scandals over tainted, shoddy or counterfeit milk, medicines and other products that have killed and injured consumers.
Some 1 million people from mostly Muslim minority groups have been confined to detention camps in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities are accused of forced sterilization and destroying mosques.
Chinese officials deny reports of abuses and say the camps are for job training to promote economic development and combat radicalism. Authorities have pressed foreign brands to reject reports of forced labor, saying they should look more closely at Xinjiang.
Foreign brands usually comply with pressure to adopt the ruling Communist Party’s position on major issues but human rights also is sensitive with consumers abroad.
The customs announcement made no mention of Xinjiang or criticism of the foreign companies. It cited what it said was potentially hazardous dyes and other chemicals in clothing and toys and the failure of shoes and toothbrushes to meet standards for strength and flexibility of materials.
The agency cited T-shirts imported by Nike Inc., children’s and baby clothing from Industria de Diseno Textil SA’s Zara brand and children’s clothing from H&M Group. It said the goods would be returned or destroyed.
Nike, Zara and H&M didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
General Administration of Customs of China: www.customs.gov.cn