More than a dozen companies contacted by National Review remained silent when asked to comment on a recent Chinese court decision that upheld a ruling that a textbook description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder” was not a factual error but an “academic view.”
Suqian Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu issued the ruling in response to an appeal filed by 24-year-old Ou Jiayong, also known as Xixi, who first discovered the psychology textbook that described being gay as a mental disorder during her studies at the South China Agricultural University in 2016, according to South China Morning Post.
The 2013 edition of Mental Health Education for College Students listed homosexuality under “common psychosexual disorders” and said that it “was believed to be a disruption of love and sex or perversion of the sex partner”.
In 2017, Xixi sued the publisher of the textbook, which is used by a number of Chinese universities, and the online retailer that stocks it, JD.com. She asked that the publisher remove the reference and publicly apologize. She argued that the book was “poor quality work” as there was no scientific evidence to back up the statement.
When National Review reached out to thirteen American companies and five multinational corporations that manufacture in China while also selling LGTBQ pride products, just one company — Sweden-based clothing retailer H&M — responded.
H&M, which lists China and Bangladesh as its largest production markets for clothing, said the company will “continue to stand by our values and commitments” when asked to comment on the ruling and if it will continue manufacturing in China moving forward.
“H&M Group works with suppliers and business partners to ensure that human rights are respected in the supply chain, based on our business relationships, leverage and operational context,” an H&M spokesperson said in a statement to National Review.
“We always strive to act ethically, transparently and responsibly and we expect our Business Partners to do the same,” the statement adds. “All our business partners have to sign and comply with our sustainability commitment no matter where they are located.”
Meanwhile, Nike, Disney, Starbucks, Dr. Martens, Bombas, MeUndies, Adidas, Reebok, Warby Parker, American Eagle, PopSockets, Pottery Barn, Teva, UGG, Puma, Target and Levi’s all did not respond to National Review’s request for comment on the ruling. All of the brands engage in pro-LGBT marketing efforts, particularly around “pride” month.
Dan Harris, a Seattle-based lawyer specializing in matters related to doing business in China, said it comes as no surprise that American companies have not expressed concern over the ruling, which he says has likely been directly handed down from the Chinese Communist Party.
“In China, the courts are not independent. They are a reflection of the Communist Party, which basically controls everything,” he said.
While China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from the official list of mental disorders in 2001, Harris says the Communist Party “has taken a dim view of homosexuality for a long time and so this court decision is really no surprise.”
Harris added that in light of American companies’ lack of concern over China’s alleged human rights violations, he doesn’t see the new ruling as “having much of an impact.”
“Many American companies do not seem terribly concerned with the allegations and the realities of a genocide going on in Xinjiang where there are at least a million Uyghurs essentially put in concentration camps, forced labor, etc.,” he said.
“Some American companies have definitely been hurt due to their association with bad elements in China, but it has not really risen to the level yet where the typical American company is going to be all that concerned with how their reputation is going to be impacted by doing business with China,” he added.
Though Harris predicts that could change as the coronavirus pandemic subsides and the Beijing Winter Olympics cast a renewed spotlight on China.