Government officials in China slammed Walmart and its wholesale chain Sam’s Club on Friday, accusing the retailers of “stupidity” after they reportedly pulled items sourced in Xinjiang province from stores in the country.
Chinese media outlets claimed local Sam’s Club customer-service reps said the products are out of stock – an explanation that government officials slammed as a “self-deceptive excuse.”
The retailers have yet to comment on why they may have pulled their products, but earlier this month, Congress passed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans imports from Xinjiang unless businesses prove products were not made through forced labor.
China’s anti-corruption agency ripped the retailers after a viral backlash against them on Chinese social-media platforms. Local news reports and users on the Twitter-like site Weibo claimed items originating from Xinjiang had been removed from Walmart and Sam’s Club’s outlets in China.
“To take down all products from a region without a valid reason hides an ulterior motive, reveals stupidity and short-sightedness, and will surely have its own bad consequences,” the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection seethed, according to Reuters.
China’s government has faced widespread condemnation over alleged human-rights abuses against ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang region. Beijing has denied the allegations.
Walmart has yet to publicly respond. US-based Walmart representatives did not immediately return the Post’s request for comment on the situation.
The social-media backlash against Walmart and Sam’s Club in China included accounts from customers who claimed they could not buy items such as apples and dates. Some users threatened to cancel their Sam’s Club memberships, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Aside from its ecommerce outlets, Walmart operated 423 brick-and-mortar stores in China as of October, according to the company’s Web site. Of that total, 36 are Sam’s Club stores.
Earlier this month, tech giant Intel issued an apology in China after word spread that it directed suppliers not to source products from Xinjiang.
In July, Swedish retailer H&M’s sales in China plummeted after its public statement declaring it would not source materials from Xinjiang prompted calls for a boycott.