Nearly 10 luxury fashion brands have apologised to their Chinese consumers for listing Hong Kong as a separate country in the past week.
Around a dozen Chinese celebrities said they were cutting ties with labels they represented after their ‘erroneous messages’ had – in media’s words – insulted China.
The protests in Hong Kong are leading western brands to carry out self-censorship to appease the lucrative market, with many of them vowing to immediately correct their mistakes and help safeguard China’s sovereignty.
Versace’s brand ambassador, actress Yang Mi (left), said she would stop collaborating with the Italian fashion house after it listed Hong Kong as a separate country on its T-shirts (right)
Supermodel Liu Wen (left, seen in 2017) said ‘the integrity of Chinese sovereignty and territory shall not be violated at any time’ after Coach failed to list Hong Kong under China (right)
Which brands have apologised to China over Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has become a particularly sensitive subject for Beijing with the financial hub plunged into months of pro-democracy protests, and international brands have been caught in the crossfire.
The companies that have been involved so far include:
- Calvin Klein
The companies that have been involved so far include Italian labels Versace and Valentino, U.S. fashion brands Coach and Calvin Klein, French firm Givenchy, Austrian jewellery maker Swarovski, U.S. skincare company Fresh, Korean electronics giant Samsung and Japanese sportswear brand Asics.
Some of them marked Hong Kong as a separate entity on their products; others listed the semi-autonomous city apart from China on their websites.
In a strongly worded column, China’s state newspaper People’s Daily urged international companies to obey the Chinese law if they wish to do business in the country.
‘[If you] challenge the bottom line, you are not far away from a tragic ending,’ the paper warned.
The trend began on Sunday when Chinese actress Yang Mi said she would stop collaborating with Versace on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
Versace had been widely criticised on social media in China for identifying the Chinese-controlled territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries in one T-shirt design.
In a statement issued by her studio, Ms Yang said she was ‘extremely infuriated’ by the matter.
‘The sovereignty and territorial integrity of my motherland are sacred and shall not be infringed upon,’ she said.
Ms Yang said she had been ‘extremely infuriated’ by Versace’s designs and decided to stop working for the brand. Donatella Versace, sister of the fashion house’s late founder Gianni, then wrote on Instagram: ‘Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty’
Versace said on its Weibo account that it had made a mistake and as of July 24 had stopped selling and destroyed the T-shirts. ‘Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,’ the company said in a statement
The T-shirt, images of which were widely posted on Chinese social media, featured a list of ‘city-country’ pairs, including ‘New York-USA’ and ‘Beijing-China’. But it also described Hong Kong and Macau as ‘Hong Kong-Hong Kong and Macau-Macau’.
Versace said on its Weibo account that it had made a mistake and as of July 24 had stopped selling and destroyed the T-shirts.
‘Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,’ the company said in a statement.
Donatella Versace, sister of the fashion house’s late founder Gianni, issued a similar statement on her official Instagram account.
‘Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused,’ she said.
One day later, supermodel Liuwen said she was terminating her contract with Coach over the same reason.
Victoria’s Secret angel Liu Wen may have to face a colossal bill from fashion house Coach after announcing she was breaking off her contract with the U.S. company this week. The 31-year-old supermodel is seen at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show in 2017 (right) and 2018 (left)
Coach issued an apology, stressing that it ‘respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’. The company said it realised the significance of the matter ‘profoundly’
Chaos could cost Hong Kong, researchers warn
The protests could push Hong Kong into a recession, research firm Capital Economics said, and risked ‘an even worse outcome if a further escalation triggers capital flight’.
Hong Kong’s property market, one of the world’s most expensive, would be hit hard in that scenario, it added.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan unveiled a series of measures worth HK$19.1 billion ($2.44 billion) on Thursday to tackle economic headwinds, but he said it was not related to political pressure from the protests.
Business and citizens’ groups have posting full-page newspaper advertisements that denounce the violence and back Hong Kong’s government.
The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong said the city’s reputation would be seriously damaged if the unrest did not stop soon.
The head of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment , Lui Che-woo, urged talks to restore harmony. The protests have affected the neighbouring Chinese territory of Macau, with some visitors avoiding the world’s biggest gambling hub amid transport disruptions and safety concerns.
The 31-year-old supermodel said ‘the integrity of Chinese sovereignty and territory is sacred and shall not be violated at any time’. She was appointed Coach’s China Ambassador less than three week ago.
Coach marked Beijing and Shanghai as Chinese cities but listed Hong Kong as a separate entity on some T-shirts in May last year.
Ms Liu wrote: ‘Because I didn’t choose the brand cautiously, [this] has hurt all of you. I am apologising to everyone here!
‘I love my motherland and resolutely safeguard the Chinese sovereignty.’
According to Chinese media, the supermodel may need to compensate Coach 160 million Yuan (£18 million) for breaking off the contract.
Coach said it immediately pulled the relevant designs off the shelves worldwide and carried out an overall inspection on all products to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.
‘Coach is dedicated to long-term development in China and respect the feelings of Chinese people. [We] sincerely accept the supervise and correction from customers,’ the brand added.
Jackson Yee, a hugely popular singer in boyband TFBoys, also pulled the plug on collaborating with Givenchy on Monday.
Then French brand expressed their regret instantly in a Weibo statement, saying ‘For any negligence and errors, we will surely correct immediately and learn a lesson from it’.
Jackson Yee (left), a hugely popular singer in boyband TFBoys, said he would terminate his contract with Givenchy on Monday over a listing about Hong Kong on the brand’s T-shirt (right)
Austrian jewellery company Swarovski lost the support of their brand ambassador, Chinese actress Jiang Shuying (pictured). Her agency said on Tuesday they ‘uphold the one China principle and believe that our national sovereignty and territory integrity cannot be violated’
Swarovski apologised on Tuesday for ‘hurting the feelings’ of Chinese people with its listings
On Tuesday, Austrian jewellery company Swarovski lost the support of their brand ambassador, Chinese actress Jiang Shuying.
Her agency said in a statement that they had sent a notice to Swarovski to terminate their cooperation as soon as possible.
We ‘uphold the one China principle and believe that our national sovereignty and territory integrity cannot be violated’, the agency said.
Swarovski apologised for ‘hurting the feelings’ of Chinese people after calling Hong Kong a separate country on its website.
Simultaneously, actor and singer Zhang Yixing broke off his contract with the world’s largest smartphone maker Samsung after the Korean company listed Hong Kong on its own on its global portal.
In a warning to other international firms, China’s state newspaper said in a column: ‘Doing business in China, [one] needs to obey the Chinese law, this is a matter of principle.
‘Faced with multinational corporations that don’t stick to the rule, we should not only condemn but also take some self-defence tools from our “tool box”.’
‘All of the companies that have damaged Chinese sovereignty should wake up. [If you] challenge the bottom line, you are not far away from a tragic ending,’ the paper warned.