As of Thursday, H&M had been wiped off Apple Maps in China and also removed from China’s leading e-commerce, ride-hailing, daily-deals and map applications, as Chinese consumers prompted by Chinese Communist Party state-run media continued to rage over the Swedish clothing brand’s decision to stop sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region.
H&M’s swift erasure from Chinese platforms marked an escalation in the kind of retaliation Western companies can face when running up against Beijing on hot-button issues, such as human rights and China’s policies toward ethnic groups in Xinjiang — and how quickly and massively a backlash can hit a company in one of its most important markets.
Criticism of H&M — including calls for boycotts — by Chinese social-media users surged on Wednesday, apparently over the company’s statement last year that it was no longer sourcing from Xinjiang, a major cotton producer, because of forced-labor allegations there. The statement suddenly went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, amplified by mentions in multiple state-media accounts.
On Thursday, ordering a car to an H&M store was impossible on Didi, the country’s largest ride-hailing app, which didn’t recognize the brand as a valid destination. Searching for H&M on multiple Chinese map apps, including Baidu Maps, run by China’s largest search engine, returned zero results, as if the clothing company didn’t exist despite its more than 400 stores in China.
Shoppers planning to purchase H&M clothing online were also out of luck. Starting Wednesday, searches for H&M’s name on platforms operated by China’s largest e-commerce companies — Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Pinduoduo Inc. and JD.com Inc. — yielded no results. Multiple Chinese Android app stores appeared to have removed one of H&M’s shopping apps.
MacDailyNews Take: With H&M having been erased from Apple Maps and other outlets, the kowtowing continues unabated as companies like Apple fear the type of retaliation H&M is currently receiving for actually having the balls to stand up for human rights instead of just showing up to mouth empty words while picking up worthless and, obviously, meaningless awards and board seats.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ 2015 Ripple of Hope Award for “his lifelong commitment to human rights” who subsequently took a place on the board Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights the following year, and winner of Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award in the Free Speech category, no less also aids and abets China’s commitment to violating human rights with serial regularity.
Two phrases immediately spring to mind:
• Do as I say, not as I do.
• Talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
Some fun quotes:
It’s about finding your values, and committing to them. It’s about finding your North Star. It’s about making choices. Some are easy. Some are hard. And some will make you question everything. — Tim Cook
You don’t have to choose between doing good and doing well. It’s a false choice, today more than ever. — Tim Cook
You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change. — Tim Cook
There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate — when a particular course of action just feels right. And interestingly I’ve discovered it’s in facing life’s most important decisions that intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right. — Tim Cook
For some things where we… [have] a strong point of view, we’re not shy. We’ll stand up, speak out – even when our voice shakes. — Tim Cook
The most important thing is, Do you have the courage to admit that you’re wrong? And do you change? The most important thing to me as a CEO is that we keep the courage. — Tim Cook
Spewing quotes that you routinely don’t back up with action and accepting awards, plaudits, and board positions for “free speech” and “human rights” while altering maps, banning publications, and pulling apps are tough actions to reconcile due to their diametrically opposed nature.
As we asked back in 2019, “For how long can Tim Cook, and by extension, Apple, get away with positioning themselves as the world’s white knight while kowtowing to every whim of the Chinese authoritarian socialist censors?”
This is about leadership, or, rather, the lack thereof.
H&M Group’s statement, in which the company said it was “deeply concerned by reports from civil society organizations and media that include accusations of forced labor and discrimination of ethnoreligious minorities in Xinjiang,” is here.
• Apple CEO Tim Cook’s continued kowtowing to China is a very bad look – October 10, 2019
• Apple removes Quartz news app from App Store in China over Hong Kong coverage – October 10, 2019
• Apple kowtows to China by censoring Taiwan flag emoji – October 7, 2019
• Apple Music censors songs in China that reference Tiananmen massacre, democracy – April 9, 2019
• Apple removes VPN apps from China App Store – July 29, 2017
• In bid to improve censorship, China to summon Apple execs to discuss stricter App Store oversight – April 20, 2017
• Apple removes New York Times apps from App Store in China at behest of Chinese government – January 4, 2017