H&M Is Erased Online in China Over Xinjiang Stance

HONG KONG—For app users in the world’s most populous country, the world’s biggest seller of fast fashion has effectively ceased to exist.

As of Thursday, Hennes & Mauritz AB’s H&M had been wiped off China’s leading e-commerce, ride-hailing, daily-deals and map applications, as Chinese consumers continued to rage over the Swedish clothing brand’s decision to stop sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region.

H&M’s swift erasure from Chinese platforms marked an escalation in the kind of retaliation Western companies can face when running up against Beijing on hot-button issues, such as human rights and China’s policies toward ethnic groups in Xinjiang—and how quickly and massively a backlash can hit a company in one of its most important markets.

Criticism of H&M—including calls for boycotts—by Chinese social-media users surged on Wednesday, apparently over the company’s statement last year that it was no longer sourcing from Xinjiang, a major cotton producer, because of forced-labor allegations there. The statement suddenly went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, amplified by mentions in multiple state-media accounts.

On Thursday, ordering a car to an H&M store was impossible on Didi, the country’s largest ride-hailing app, which didn’t recognize the brand as a valid destination. Searching for H&M on multiple Chinese map apps, including Baidu Maps, run by China’s largest search engine, returned zero results, as if the clothing company didn’t exist despite its over 400 stores in China.

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