|Japanese apparel firms in dilemma over Xinjiang cotton|
Major Japanese apparel makers and other companies are in a dilemma over Xinjiang cotton, considered one of the best cottons in the world, but also seen as symbolizing China's repression of ethnic minority Uighurs, mostly Muslim, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In May, it was learned that the United States had blocked imports of shirts for Fast Retailing's Uniqlo casual wear chain, alleging that they were made from Xinjiang cotton. Though Fast Retailing rejected the allegations, new US rules require firms to provide evidence that there has been no trade whatsoever with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a Communist Party of China-affiliated economic and paramilitary organization in the region, at any stage of the marketing channel after production. Users of Xinjiang cotton face a dilemma. They are criticized by U.S. and European NGOs and investors for low awareness of human rights if they continue using the cotton, but they may be forced out of the Chinese market if they stop using it. In fact, a boycott campaign targeting a well-known international apparel maker has spread in China. In April, sportswear maker Asics lost its sponsorship of a major marathon race in China after a long silence on the question of Xinjiang cotton.