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Last week, Japanese actress Yui Aragaki was appointed by H&M Japan for their new campaign Let’s Change, which will be held during Japan's Golden Week from Tuesday (27 April). Owing to the Xinjiang cotton scandal in China, many Chinese fans of the actress are upset with her endorsement.
Xinjiang is China’s top cotton producer and accounts for one-fifth of the cotton produced worldwide. However, since an investigation by BBC published in December, reports have surfaced accusing China of using forced labour from the Uighur ethnic group and other minorities in Xinjiang cotton factories. Although the Chinese government denied these allegations, Western apparel companies including H&M have since stopped the use of Xinjiang cotton, citing concerns over human rights.
As a form of retaliation, H&M products were removed from China’s e-commerce platforms. Apart from consumers, Chinese influencers and celebrities have also been severing ties with brands that stopped buying Xinjiang cotton.
Here is Aragaki's H&M commercial:
Amid the furore, Aragaki’s appointment as ambassador for H&M Japan proved to be a vexing situation for Chinese fans, who have boycotted the clothing brand. Some of these fans said they were “heartbroken” and wanted to “divorce” Aragaki, who has been known as the “national wife” in China.
However, some fans have defended the actress, saying on microblogging site Weibo:
“She is a Japanese after all. You only have to stop buying H&M.”
“There’s no need to boycott her. She’s a Japanese, not a Chinese.”
“She’s not a Chinese. You don’t have the rights to stop her from endorsing!”
“A Japanese endorsing in Japan. What has it got to do with us?”
Other netizens retorted with comments like:
“A Japanese endorsed a brand that boycotted our country’s product. So it’s not wrong to boycott her, right?”
“She chose to endorse, shows her political standpoint.”
“Japanese celebrities have their freedom to endorse, and we have our freedom to choose (to boycott her).”
Aragaki has not made any comments regarding this backlash. But when she was approached by H&M, Aragaki was happy to have the chance to do something new, and thought it was going to be fun and meaningful as the ambassador for H&M Japan.
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