H&M faces backlash in Vietnam


Having operated in Vietnam since 2017, H&M is now a well-known fashion brand in the country with branches in several cities including Hanoi, Saigon, Danang, and more.

Over the past few days, however, the Swedish fashion retailer has found itself the center of a massive backlash in Vietnam after it reportedly edited its map to include China’s nine-dash line – the mark that China uses on many maps to claim the Paracel and Spratly Islands and a large part of the disputed South China Sea as its own territories.


The move did not sit well with Vietnamese netizens



Vietnamese netizens are calling for the boycott of H&M in social media messages

Image credit: Quyên Hr

The incident began last Friday, 2nd April. According to Người Lao Động, Chinese authorities, apparently notified by Chinese Internet users, issued an order to H&M to fix a reportedly “problematic map of China” on its website, which the fashion retailer is said to have complied with.

nine dash line south china sea
The nine-dash line around the South China Sea’s Paracel and Spratly Islands, as shown on a 1988 map

Image credit: US CIA Perry-Castañeda Map Collection: South China Sea/Wikimedia Commons

It was not specified what the so-called “problem” was, but allegations circulating online have it that H&M will edit the map to display the nine-dash line.

However, as of the time of writing, there is no map on H&M’s China website’s store directory page, and no mention of the map dispute on H&M’s official China Weibo and WeChat pages yet.


An image calling for H&M to withdraw from Vietnam, saying that the Hoàng Sa & Trường Sa (Paracel and Spratly) islands belong to Vietnam
Image credit: SMTOWN – 1st Vietnamese Fanpage

The allegations have resulted in massive outrage against H&M in Vietnam. The hashtag #boycottHM is now trending on Vietnamese social media, calling for netizens to turn their backs on the fashion brand.

In the past, the Vietnamese government has, on multiple occasions, cited historical records and international laws to state that the Paracel and Spratly Islands – known in Vietnamese as Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa respectively – belong to Vietnam. To many Vietnamese citizens, this is considered an absolute and unquestionable fact, and any claim otherwise is seen as disrespectful to the country’s sovereignty.

H&M has yet to make any official comment regarding the event. Back in March 2021, the Swedish retailer also came under fire in China due to a statement it made several months prior expressing concerns over forced labor in the Xinjiang region. In response, the company said it hoped to regain the trust of customers in China.


H&M boycotted in Vietnam


Vietnamese citizens are very adamant about protecting their country’s sovereignty, especially when it comes to the South China Sea dispute.

Last year, several Chinese celebrities had also lost a huge number of Vietnamese fans after making statements supporting the nine-dash line.

We’ll have to wait and see what H&M will do in the face of the backlash.

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Cover image adapted from Dang Xuan Truong

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