China Lashes Out to Silence Its Xinjiang Critics

China Lashes Out to Silence Its Xinjiang Critics
An H&M clothing store at a shopping mall in Beijing, March 26, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week.

The Chinese government has long denied any human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, even as an increasing number of reports shed light on its brutal repression of mostly Muslim Uyghurs there. But in the face of mounting international pressure and now sanctions, Beijing is going on the offensive to silence critics of all stripes.

Shortly after the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada jointly imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang earlier this month, the Chinese Communist Party’s youth wing took aim at fashion retailer H&M. The Swedish company had announced in a statement last year that it had stopped buying cotton grown in Xinjiang amid reports of forced labor in the province. Jumping on that statement from last September, which had flown under the radar at the time, China’s vast propaganda machine whipped up a nationalist storm this week against international brands that have taken a stance on Uyghur abuses.

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