China crisis for Burberry as brand feels heat of Xinjiang backlash
Burberry has become the first luxury brand to feel the backlash in China over its stance on accusations of abuses of Uighur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
It has lost two prominent celebrity ambassadors. Award-winning actress Zhou Dongyu has terminated her contract with the company, as has actor and model Song Weilong. They’d most recently appeared in a film for the brand celebrating Chinese New Year.
And the Tencent-linked Honor of Kings game has removed the Burberry skins for a popular character that the brand had announced only this week.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip has publicly said she would stop buying the brand, despite it being one of her favourites. “I stand with my country in boycotting companies that spread lies about Xinjiang,” she wrote on Twitter.
In recent days, Chinese consumers have urged boycotts of a number of brands, including H&M and sports giants Nike and Adidas over their stances on the situation. Other western brands have also lost Chinese ambassadors.
For Burberry, it’s a major blow in the country that's so important to luxury brands and one in which many of them have been extremely active. That’s definitely the case for Burberry, which has launched live-streams, plus a ‘luxury social’ store in Shenzhen in a deal with Tencent, and used celebrity spokespeople to reach the all-important Chinese consumer.
The row has blown up in recent days despite Burberry having said as far back as October that it was suspending its approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang.
The brands backlash has reached a crucial point this week and comes after the US, EU, UK and Canada have imposed sanctions on China due to claims of human rights violations against Uighur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
And on Friday, China’s foreign ministry targeted Britain as it sanctioned a number entities and people over what it says are “lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang. It means those people and entities (including research groups and a law firm) won’t be able to enter Chinese territory and its citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with them.
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