Although Xijiang is China’s biggest cotton-growing area, H&M has decided to no longer make use of a Chinese yarn producer there due to claims of “forced labour.”

The producers are accused of making use of ethnic and religious minorities from the Xinjiang Province in, what has been referred to, as a forced labour transfer programme. H&M was named as a beneficiary of this programme in a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) earlier this year. The retailer denied the accusation that it had any relationship with the dyed yarn producer or any of its operations.

H&M did, however, admit in a statement to having an “indirect business relationship with one mill” in Shangyu in the Zhejiang province, belonging to Huafu Fashion. They said that they will be phasing out direct business relationships with Haufu Fashion Co. “regardless of unit and province, within the next 12 months” until there is more clarity concerning the forced labour claims.

Furthermore, H&M said they conducted an inquiry at all its Chinese garment manufacturing factories in China. To ensure that they are not employing workers through programmes or schemes where forced labour is an increased risk.

Fearful that Chinese products, including cotton, garments and hair products, were made using forced labour, US customs on Monday said it would bar a raft containing these products.

Chinese authorities called these claims out as “a complete fabrication” and tagged the US’ decision as “bullying.”