Close-up photos: H&M stores in Vietnam after wave of boycott calls

Customers showed their boycott attitude right at stores of Swedish clothing giant H&M in Vietnam in the presence of reporters and salespeople.
April 04, 2021 | 12:19
china says hm agreed to publish online map with nine dash line China says H&M agreed to publish online map with “nine-dash line”
china pressures brands to reject reports of xinjiang abuses China pressures brands to reject reports of Xinjiang abuses
hm stirring up a fast fashion fever in vietnam H&M stirring up a fast fashion fever in Vietnam
Close up photos: H&M stores in Vietnam after wave of boycott calls
An H&M store in a shopping area in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 3, 2021. Photo:

Present at H&M store at Hanoi-based AEON MALL Ha Dong - the largest shopping mall of AEON Group in Vietnam, at the end of the afternoon of April 3, reporter of Giao Thong newspaper noted that customers visiting H&M's booths went in and out regularly.

However, the store staff refused to discuss the controversy related to the wave of boycott calls and the number of customers buying.

At H&M store in the Vincom Mega Mall Royal City Thanh Xuan, the time customers visiting H&M booths less than other stores around. Staff here also has declined to comment on the incident.

When a child accidentally ran into the said H&M store to play, he was immediately pulled by his parents to another booth with many words showing their boycott towards this brand, as witnessed by reporters and salespeople.

Through this, we can also see the attitude of Vietnamese consumers if H&M deliberately uses a map with illegal nine-dash line.

Before that, Vietnamese users on social media plaforms called out to boycott the world's second-biggest fashion retailer with several hashtags #BoycottHM, #TaychayHM, #HMgetoutofVietNam, #HoangsaTruongSabelongtoVietNam.

Close up photos: H&M stores in Vietnam after wave of boycott calls
People walk past an H&M store in a shopping area in Vietnam.

H&M faced an unexpected public backlash in China this week when social media users in the country suddenly circulated a statement the company made in 2020 announcing it would no longer source cotton from China's Xinjiang province due to difficulties to conduct credible due diligence in the region and after media and human rights' groups reported the use of forced labour in Xinjiang.

The public backlash against H&M caused e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, shopping app Meituan, and the maps app for search engine Baidu Inc, to each remove the Swedish retailer from their listings.

ABC News reported that the city government of Shanghai had asked H&M to correct a "problematic map of China".

Citing a statement by the Shanghai government, ABC said Internet users reported the problem to the management of H&M's website and the Shanghai municipal bureau of planning and natural resources ordered it to be changed.

The Wall Street Journal cited the Shanghai arm of the Cyberspace Administration of China as saying that H&M's website operator had taken actions to address the issue.

The fashion giant was also told to study various Chinese laws, “bolster its awareness of the national territory, and really ensure the standardised use of the Chinese map”.

Chinese officials has lashed out at H&M and other western companies in recent days, warning the “era of bullying” by foreign powers was over.

Close up photos: H&M stores in Vietnam after wave of boycott calls
In a statement on March 31, H&M stressed the importance of the Chinese market and said it was working on strategies for material sourcing.

In response to the online furor, the company on March 31 said it was doing "everything" to resolve a boycott in China that was sparked by its decision to stop sourcing cotton from Xinjiang over forced labour concerns.

"We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward," H&M said in a statement.

"We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China," it said.

Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) first store was officially launched in Ho Chi Minh city in September 2017. Just two months later, it continued to open the next store in Hanoi, which was enthusiastically received by many young customers.

However, H&M has a relatively small presence in Vietnam, operating just 11 bricks-and-mortar stores in the country, compared with 520 in China.

Close up photos: H&M stores in Vietnam after wave of boycott calls
The "cow's tongue line" or "nine-dash line" is a concept that China relies on to claim historical rights over almost of the Bien Dong Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).

The nine-dash line is a representation of China’s expansive claims in the Bien Dong Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea). The line itself is a collection of arbitrary dashes or dots without specific coordinates. China has not given any official explanations regarding its precise delimitation or legal origin.

This claim has been openly rejected by Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the US, and has been criticized by numerous international scholars. More importantly, the claim to historic waters within the line was rejected by the arbitral award of the South China Sea tribunal in July 2016. But China has disregarded the ruling and insists on the nine-dash line claim.

In 2019, some cases relating to the availability of the illegal map were detected in some products imported or temporarily imported into Vietnam. The goods was then confiscated and the involvers were fined for violations.

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Hannah Nguyen
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