Nike has denied that the company has been using any type of textiles or spun yarn from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR), where China allegedly holds Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in forced labor camps.
Alongside other companies such as Calvin Klein and Coca-Cola, Nike was accused of outsourcing its labor for its textiles to labor camps by a congressional report last March. In response the company said it had no working relationships with certain manufacturers in China that operate in the XUAR.
“Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards. We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). 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,” a company statement read.
“The Nike Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards have requirements prohibiting any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor, including detailed provisions for freedom of movement and prohibitions on discrimination based on ethnic background or religion. We continue to regularly engage with all of our suppliers to evaluate compliance with Nike’s Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards.
“We have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential forced labor risks related to employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, in other parts of China. Based on evolving information, we strengthened our audit protocols to identify emerging risks related to potential labor transfer programs. Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, elsewhere in our supply chain.”
Now Nike and other companies that have recently condemned forced labor practices in China are facing backlash from Chinese state media and ecommerce platforms, just weeks after a round of sanctions further escalated tensions between western governments and China.
Searches for clothing from H&M, the Swedish retailer, turned up no results on Alibaba’s T-mall and JD.com, China’s two biggest online retailers. Searches for H&M’s physical shops on Baidu and Gaode, China’s leading mapping apps, also turned up no results.
The share price of H&M fell by over three per cent on Thursday afternoon while Burberry, a clothing brand also recently mentioned by Chinese media as a company that had cut ties with Xinjiang, dropped six per cent.
“It cannot be coincidental that today they drudge up a fairly standard due-diligence statement from months before,” Alison Gill, a US-based campaigner with Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, said of the attacks on H&M.
In other business news, the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter faced fire from US lawmakers on Thursday over their respective approaches to extremism and misinformation in their first appearances before Congress since the US Capitol was assaulted by pro-Trump rioters in early January.
“We fled as a mob desecrated the Capitol, the House floor, and our democratic process,” said Democratic Representative Mike Doyle. “That attack, and the movement that motivated it, started and was nourished on your platforms,” he added.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg admitted that there had been content related to the riot on its platform but denied that he or the company should bear responsibility for the event, as the company’s responsibility was just to ‘build effective systems’.
“We did our part to secure the integrity of the election, and then on Jan. 6, President Trump gave a speech rejecting the results and calling on people to fight,” Zuckerberg said. He argued that polarization in the country was already heavily present due to political and economic reasons.
“Your business model itself has become the problem and the time for self-regulation is over. It’s time we legislate to hold you accountable,” Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, chair of the Energy and Commerce committee, told the tech bosses.
The tech giants were also the recipient of Republican ire, as some on the panel criticized the firms for what they believe to be efforts to stifle conservative voices.
There have been multiple calls from lawmakers for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from liability over user content, to be either scrapped or amended. Several pieces of legislation from Democrats to reform Section 230 are now going through Congress, although progress has been slow. A number of Republican lawmakers have also been pushing separately to scrap the law entirely.
Facebook released a written testimony before the meeting before lawmakers, arguing that Section 230 should be rewritten to allow companies immunity from liability for what users post on their platforms only if they have been following the set practices for removing damaging material.
Sundar Pichai, Alphabet Inc’s CEO, and Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, said in the hearing they would be open to some of the changes in Facebook’s proposal. Pichai said there were some “good proposals.”, while Dorsey endorsed some of the suggestions from Zuckerberg but said it would be difficult to distinguish between small and large services.