About 200 pairs of shoes imported from the European Union have been burned in Hangzhou, eastern China province of Zhejiang, after the local market watchdog said they had failed quality checks.
The amount of shoes destroyed made up nearly 70 percent of the shoe imports inspected by the Zhejiang Industrial and Commercial Administration in the third quarter. However, no figures detailing the total number of EU shoes imported to China were released.
The largest ever campaign to recover substandard shoes from the market, involving well-known brand names Strada, Clarks, D&G, Trussardi and Boomerang, appears to coincide with local shoe manufacturers bearing the first brunt of the anti-dumping tariffs imposed by the European Union on Chinese shoe exports.
Zhejiang, a major shoe production base in China, saw its EU exports plummet to a record low for the year of 180 million pairs in October, down 66.4 percent over the same period of last year.
The anti-dumping duty of 16.5 percent imposed by the EU on October 7 will be in place for two years.
Pan Wei, who is in charge of a consumer complaints hotline in Zhejiang, said many of the products failed quality inspections of the stiffness of the insoles and the rigidity of the uppers.
"By wearing footwear with these flaws, consumers are more susceptible to falling or spraining their ankles," Pan said.
The imported shoes were priced between 1,500 yuan (190 U.S. dollars) to 2,500 yuan (320 U.S. dollars) on average, three times as much as locally made ones.
Zhong Hongsheng, Director of the WTO Research Institute of Zhejiang Wanli Business School, said destroying EU imports that did not pass quality inspection complied with the rules of the WTO.
"As the world economy becomes increasingly integrated, consumers should no longer blindly follow foreign brand names," he said.
Buying foreign, especially high fashion, products has evolved into a growing trend among China's expanding middle class. Almost all world famous brand names such as Gucci and Prada have set up franchise stores in China.
EU-made shoes have long been viewed as the pinnacle of fine quality so news of their destruction in Zhejiang has sparked debate among Chinese consumers.
On a chat-room of netease.com, more than 350 comments have been made. One netizen asked why local authorities had destroyed the shoes. "Why didn't they allow import firms to ask for refunds? Who paid for their losses?"
Another comment reads, "Well done. Crack down on lawbreaking merchants."