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H&M Summoned by Chinese Authorities Over Mapping Issue

By Liza Lin 

Chinese authorities summoned Hennes & Mauritz AB over what they said was improper mapping on the H&M website, the latest warning shot fired at the Swedish clothing brand that has been the target of social-media rage over its cotton sourcing policy.

The officials called the company in for a discussion about violating Chinese law after domestic internet users informed authorities that H&M's website contained "problematic Chinese maps," the Shanghai arm of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's internet regulator, said Friday.

The regulator didn't offer details on the alleged mapping offense, but said H&M's website operator took actions to correct the issue. In a statement posted on the WeChat social-media platform, it said the fashion giant was told to study various Chinese laws, "bolster its awareness of the national territory, and really ensure the standardized use of the Chinese map."

H&M couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The mapping complaint builds on recent trouble H&M has experienced in China. The company took a battering on Chinese social media in recent days over a statement it issued last year about not sourcing cotton from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, the country's largest cotton-producing area.

On Wednesday, the clothing company's chief executive officer reiterated a commitment to its human-rights position of avoiding the use of cotton from China's Xinjiang. The fast-fashion company wants to be a "responsible buyer," Helena Helmersson said during a conference call coinciding with the firm's earnings report on Wednesday.

This isn't the first time H&M has run into trouble in China over map-related issues. In 2018, it was called out for listing Taiwan as a country on the Taiwanese-version of its website. Then, the company came under fire from Chinese internet users for listing Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Tibet as individual countries.

The Chinese government's policies affecting mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including the use of internment camps, has become a flashpoint in Beijing's relations with the West. Rights groups have alleged that some former camp detainees have been sent to work in factories. In its statement, H&M expressed concern about forced-labor allegations.

A check by The Wall Street Journal showed H&M's website in China continued to be accessible. Last week, China's leading e-commerce, ride-hailing, daily-deals and map applications removed references to H&M after last year's sourcing statement re-emerged in the online sphere.

The Journal has reported that propaganda officials celebrated in Beijing days after a Chinese social-media post helped ignite a frenzy of outrage against H&M and other Western clothing brands.

Other multinationals have come under fire in China over maps and territory issues. In 2018, Beijing ordered all airlines to start referring to Taiwan as "Taiwan, China" and to stop implying that Taiwan is an independent country in their use of route maps and destination lists, leaving airlines scrambling to update their websites. China considers Taiwan a province; the island has governed itself since 1949.

Yoko Kubota contributed to this article.

Write to Liza Lin at Liza.Lin@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 02, 2021 12:27 ET (16:27 GMT)

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