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Chinese celebrities rush to defend Beijing's Xinjiang policy by cutting ties with international brands

March 25, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.5%. 2 min read.

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 28: Actress Dilraba Dilmurat (aka Dilireba) arrives at the red carpet of 2019 Tencent Star Awards on December 28, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Due to China's tight restrictions on free speech, most of the country's stars have been outwardly apolitical by default. But as China embraces a new wave of apparent nationalism -- promoted by the ruling Communist Party and amplified by state media -- it seems staying silent is no longer a viable option.

Over the past two days, Chinese actors, singers and models have spoken up en masse to defend Beijing's policy on Xinjiang, as a nationalist-fueled backlash erupted against some international clothing brands for expressing concerns over allegations of forced labor, and refusing to use cotton produced in the western region.

In December, the US government said it would block imports of cotton produced in Xinjiang over concerns it "may have been made by slave labor in some of the most egregious human rights violations existing today. "

However, in a striking move this week, more than 30 Chinese celebrities have ended their promotional partnerships or said they would cut ties with brands they accused of "smearing" cotton produced in Xinjiang, including H&M, Nike, Adidas, Puma and Calvin Klein.

Other celebrities also showed allegiance by sharing the hashtag "I support Xinjiang's cotton," which has been viewed nearly 5 billion times since it was posted Wednesday by party mouthpiece People's Daily on Weibo, China's heavily-censored version of Twitter.

In the statement, which was released in September 2020, H&M, the world's second-largest clothing retailer, said that it was "deeply concerned" over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang and that it had stopped buying cotton from growers in the region.

Throughout Thursday, more and more celebrities followed suit, cutting ties with fashion brands linked to the Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit group based in Geneva and London, that promotes sustainable cotton production, which said in October it was suspending its approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang, citing human rights concerns.

Following the uproar, a slew of Chinese celebrities, including model Liu Wen and actress Yang Mi, quickly cut ties with the fashion brands.

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