Chinese TV shows are looking increasingly blurry these days, and that’s not because of slow internet connection.
Logos of global brands such as Nike, Adidas, and PUMA are getting blurred on entertainment shows after Beijing launched a campaign against foreign companies that have pledged to stop using cotton from Xinjiang.
A number of top fashion brands, including H&M, Nike, and Adidas, have faced boycott calls in China since state media accused them of fabricating allegations of labor abuse in Xinjiang, as part of the government’s latest effort to counter mounting criticism over its treatment of Muslim minorities.
These companies distanced themselves from Xinjiang cotton last year, following accusations from researchers and human rights groups that ethnic minorities in the region were being forced to work in factories connected to global supply chains.
Beijing denies using forced labor, and the state-backed boycotts have fueled nationalistic outrage online.
The global brands, however, have extensive sponsorship deals with China’s sports and entertainment industries.
Several A-list celebrities cut ties with the brands immediately to show their support to the government, but for web shows that have already been produced, the cheapest way to avoid political risk is to blur all the logos.
Youth With You, a boys’ group contest show on iQIYI, delayed releasing its March 25 episode a day after state media began attacking the global brands. When the show was out, all the Adidas logos on contestants’ shirts had been blurred.
In an iQIYI web series Ping Pong, the protagonist, a ping-pong player, was seen working out with blurry feet. It’s hard to tell what kind of sneakers he was wearing.
Many fans, having gotten used to such censorship, thanked editors for working hard to meet the last-minute requirements.
All entertainment programs need government approval before they are shown, and streaming sites regularly blur out elements they think may irritate censors, such as men’s earrings, hijab-like scarves, rainbow flags, and tattoos.
Compared with the entertainment sector, China’s sports stars have largely stayed quiet on their ties with global brands.
Nike and Adidas have businesses with well-known athletes and China’s state-run sports teams. At an Olympic qualifier on Thursday, China’s women’s football team were wearing Nike shirts as they played against South Korea in Seoul.
It’s unclear if the teams will still be able to use the brands’ products at the Tokyo Olympics.
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