Hong Kong Cantopop star Eason Chan has cut ties with Adidas after a group of clothing brands rejected cotton produced in China’s Xinjiang amid claims of forced labour.

The award-winning 46-year-old singer announced on Weibo on Thursday that he and his firm My Kan Wonderland Limited would no longer be ambassadors for the German sportswear brand: “This company and its artist Mr Eason Chan resolutely boycott any behaviour vilifying China. Starting from today, [we] terminate all collaboration with the Adidas brand,” the statement read.

Eason Chan. Photo: Jason Poon, via Flickr CC2.0.

The message did not appear on Chan’s Facebook page.

This week, Adidas – alongside Nike and H&M – have come under fire by mainland netizens and state media, for previously expressing concern about reports of forced labour.

The brands are members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which promotes sustainable cotton production. It has also seen a backlash after it said last October that it would suspend approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang for the 2020-2021 season amid human rights concerns. Meanwhile, several e-commerce platforms have dropped foreign brands from their stores amid boycott calls.

Another Hong Kong Cantopop singer Joey Yung also shared a post on Weibo on Thursday expressing her support for Xinjiang cotton, whilst local pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip did so on Twitter.

According to state-run tabloid Global Times, 50 Chinese stars have thus far voiced support for the cotton industry.

According to its financial report, China represented 24 per cent of Adidas’s net sales in 2020.

Cotton fields

Last December, the BBC published an investigation showing how Uighurs had been forced to work in Xinjiang’s cotton fields. However, Beijing has insisted that claims of forced labour are “entirely fabricated.”

The predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group are among the minorities targeted in what Beijing claims is a campaign to tackle unrest and separatism. The UN says a million Uighurs have been arbitrarily detained in “political reeducation camps,” whilst Human Rights Watch reports that surveillance and repression in Xinjiang has increased dramatically since 2016. The NGO says that biometric data is collected from residents, passports are confiscated, religious activity restricted, “abnormally long” beards, public prayers and Muslim veils banned, whilst vehicle and mobile phone owners are made to install trackers. Contraceptives, sterilisation and abortion have been reportedly forced upon Uighurs to control the population. The US has deemed Beijing’s actions to amount to “genocide.”

The boycott calls come days after the European Union sanctioned several Chinese officials over the alleged rights abuses.

Additional reporting: Kelly Ho.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.