Foreign brands under fire in China over Xinjiang

Foreign brands faced a growing storm on Chinese social media on Thursday (March 25).

It's in the wake of Beijing's offensive against H&M, after the Swedish company aired concerns over Xinjiang.

Earlier this week China denied allegations of human rights abuses by its officials in the western region of the country.

Following the European Union, U.S., Britain and Canada imposing sanctions on the officials.

Beijing hit back with retaliatory sanctions on European lawmakers, academics and institutions.

Chinese state media singled out H&M this week for a statement that was reported by media last year.

The world's second largest apparel retailer had said it was deeply concerned by accusations of forced labour in Xinjiang.

And that it did not source products from the region.

It was not clear why the H&M statement was back in the public eye.

But it ignited a social media frenzy in China, with more brands being dragged in.

Nike, which said earlier in an undated statement it was "concerned" about reports of forced labour, was one.

As was German sportswear firm Adidas.

Many internet users said they would stop buying Nike and support local brands instead.

Others bluntly told Adidas to leave China.

Shares of Chinese firm Anta Sports Products jumped over 6% after it issued a statement saying it will continue to use cotton from Xinjiang.

China produces over a fifth of the world's cotton.

Xinjiang accounts for about 87% of Chinese output.

Nike and Adidas did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In response to the outcry, H&M said on Wednesday it was committed to long-term investment in China.

But by Thursday morning searches for H&M stores on Baidu Maps yielded no results.