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Vietnamese Netizens Call for H&M Boycott Over 'Problematic Map' of China

A fervent wave of boycott calls directed at Swedish fast-fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has swept social media circles in Vietnam in recent days.

Over the weekend, Vietnamese netizens bombarded the official Facebook page of H&M with furor and assertions on the country’s claim on the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes in the East Sea. Some posts have received tens of thousands of angry reactions. Many are demanding a boycott of the brand across Vietnam, both on Facebook and Twitter.

On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration of China’s branch in Shanghai announced that it received complaints from members of the public over a “problematic map of China” on the Swedish brand’s website, according to South China Morning Post. The news source added that the Shanghai municipal bureau of planning and natural resources ordered H&M to rectify the map “error,” and the company complied. The company has declined to comment on the incident when queried by news agencies.

It’s important to note that Chinese press and official authorities did not clarify why the map was problematic, or what it actually looked like. At the time of writing, the store locator section of the Chinese-language website of H&M does not feature any map. Nonetheless, the Post reported many Weibo users have reposted a graphic from an earlier People’s Daily report with the infamous nine-dash line showing China’s controversial claim in the East Sea.

Still, it’s unclear what the errant map looks like, as there are numerous territorial claims that China has made over contentious areas involving its neighbors, including disputes with India, Japan and the Philippines, among others. In 2019, th luxury brand Versace was targeted by Chinese netizens over a T-shirt design that displayed Hong Kong and Macau as countries rather than administrative regions under China.

The clarion call by Vietnamese netizens, however, has reportedly reached local authorities. In an interview with Cong An, President of the Vietnam Consumer Protection Association Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng requested relevant government agencies to investigate the complaints and provide appropriate punishment if H&M is found to have breached local law.

The shunning by Vietnamese netizens comes amidst an ongoing “Boycott H&M” campaign by Chinese netizens over the brand’s stance on Xinjiang cotton. The region is home to a large population of Uighur Muslims, whom activists and NGOs have said are being tortured, sterilized and forced into heavy labor by China.

In a previous statement, the Swedish brand said it was “deeply concerned by reports from civil society organisations and media that include accusations of forced labour” and affirmed that it stopped sourcing cotton from Xinjiang. The stance did not sit well with Chinese consumers, who accused the brand of “spreading false rumors.”

So far, H&M has not released any statement regarding the incensed reactions by Vietnamese netizens. According to a company report from last year, as of the first half of 2020, H&M was operating nine stores in Vietnam, which contributed SEK206 million (US$23.5 million) in revenue, compared to China’s 516 stores and SEK4.373 billion (US$500 million). H&M now has 11 locations in Vietnam.

[Photo by VN Economics Times]

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