Burberry has lost a Chinese brand ambassador. Its hallmark tartan design was wiped from a popular video game, becoming the first luxury brand thrashed by the Chinese backlash to Western accusations of abuses in Xinjiang.
China on Friday sanctioned organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom over what it called “lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang, days after Britain inflicted sanctions for alleged human rights vitriols in the western Chinese region.
Burberry is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative. This group facilitates sustainable cotton production, which said in October it was cancelling its cotton sourced approval from Xinjiang, referring to human rights concerns.
Award-winning Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu annulled her contract with Burberry as the brand’s ambassador, as Burberry has not “clearly and publicly stated its stance on cotton from Xinjiang,” the agency said on Thursday.
According to its website, Burberry cotton is sourced from the United States, Australia, Turkey, India and Egypt.
The backlash – particularly in social and traditional media – has also enveloped mass-market brands like H&M, Adidas AG and Nike Inc, which have formerly reflected substantial views on labour conditions in Xinjiang, China’s most significant cotton-producing region.
Activists and U.N. rights experts have accused China of using mass detainment, torture, forced labour and sterilisations on Uighurs in Xinjiang. China refutes these claims and asserts its actions in the region are crucial to counter extremism.
In a letter to British lawmakers in November, Burberry said it did not have any undertakings in Xinjiang or work with any suppliers based there, adding that it did not approve of modern slavery among its suppliers forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.