U.S. Condemns China’s “State-Led” Social Media Campaign Against International Companies Over Xinjiang Cotton

The United States on Friday (March 26) condemned what Washington called a “state-led” social media campaign in China against U.S. and other international companies that have decided not to use cotton from the Xinjiang region because of forced labor issues.

State Department spokeswoman Porter said the social media campaign and consumer boycott are targeting U.S., European and Japanese companies.

“We applaud and support companies that comply with U.S. law and ensure that our consumer products are not made through forced labor,” she said at a regular press conference.

She added, “We support and encourage companies to respect human rights and comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

Earlier the same day, White House spokeswoman Sachs said, “In our view, the international community should oppose China’s efforts to stifle free speech and inhibit ethical business practices by weaponizing private companies’ reliance on its markets.”

Xinjiang is the world’s leading cotton-producing region. The Chinese government denies that forced labor exists in Xinjiang. Some overseas companies have caused outrage within China for having made public statements that they would stop using Xinjiang cotton. Official media have called for a boycott, some celebrities have rescinded their sponsorship contracts with companies such as Nike in the United States, and consumers have posted boycott statements on social media.

On Monday, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada imposed sanctions on a number of Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The U.S., U.K. and Canada, along with New Zealand and Australia, issued separate joint statements on the same day slamming China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

U.S. trade officials are consulting with their Western counterparts to address what Washington says are unfair trade practices, including forced labor.

In January, Washington announced a ban on all imports of cotton and tomato products from the region due to allegations that they were produced by detained Uighur Muslims through forced labor.