ASICS, Supplier of Australia's Olympic Uniforms, Responds to Strange Controversy Over Xinjiang Cotton
Japanese sportswear company ASICS had to do some PR damage control after releasing a statement supporting the nationalistic “One China Principle" and insinuating that it would continue to source cotton from Xinjiang province.
“ASICS has always adhered to the one-China principle and resolutely defended [China’s] national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement read in part, according to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
Xinjiang is China’s center of cotton production, but it's been making international news for human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim ethnic group, who activists say China is holding in forced labor and re-education facilities.
After receiving criticism on social media, ASICS, which is the official apparel supplier for the Australian Olympic team, reportedly walked back its statement committing to using Xinjiang cotton, and said that the original quote was “unauthorized and not [its] official corporate position on this matter.”
"Sources say it is likely the social media post was written by ASICS' China office and its local staff, without approval from Kobe" https://t.co/QVIkac92yU
— isabella steger (@stegersaurus) March 29, 2021
The spokesperson also said that the Australian Olympic Team uniforms do not contain cotton sourced from Xinjiang, having been manufactured elsewhere.
One source told the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre that the original post was possibly made by ASICS staff in China without approval from the company’s Kobe, Japan headquarters.
The situation in Xinjiang has prompted some major apparel companies to source their cotton elsewhere. In 2018, several major schools and universities pulled branded apparel from their stores after a report from the Associated Press linked the items to the region. In August, Apple came under fire for allegedly sourcing uniforms for its store employees from Xinjiang facilities.
Over the last year, the U.S. has implemented severe import restrictions on Chinese cotton, and B2B apparel platforms are developing ways for companies to be sure that their products are not coming from facilities that use forced labor.