Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 25 March 2021



H&M Stores Vanish From China Maps as Xinjiang Spat Worsens

  • H&M outlets not showing on Apple and Baidu map apps in China
  • Retailer has drawn dismay in country for stance on Xinjiang
A Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) store in Shanghai.
A Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) store in Shanghai. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Hennes & Mauritz AB outlets appeared not to show up on Apple Maps and Baidu Maps searches in China on Friday after the fashion retailer found itself at the center of an escalating spat over human rights in the contentious region of Xinjiang.

Users in Beijing reported that any searches for H&M in either Apple Maps on the iPhone or Baidu Maps returned no results. Competing retailers, such as Uniqlo outlets, continued showing as usual. A similar search in Google Maps showed over a dozen H&M locations in the capital or its vicinity, though that service is only accessible to locals via the use of a virtual private network that skirts a state ban on products from the Alphabet Inc. unit.

Apple Inc. sources its mapping data in China from AutoNavi Software Co. -- owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. -- while Baidu Inc. collects its own. Representatives from Apple, Alibaba, Baidu and H&M didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The disappearance of H&M’s physical stores from online maps comes after the retailer was removed from Alibaba’s e-commerce platform earlier this week as the controversy escalated. The company had been blasted by China’s Communist Youth League and the People’s Liberation Army Wednesday after social-media users dug out an undated statement about accusations of forced labor in the region’s cotton-picking industry. The statement appears to have since been removed from H&M’s website as of Friday.

David Fickling

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