Lancôme, the formerly beloved French cosmetics brand in Hong Kong, is facing serious backlash following a disastrous public relations debacle.
Angry protesters showed up to closed doors and rope barricades after Lancôme shut down all of its locations in Hong Kong including its stores and stalls in shopping malls. The protests occurred as a result of Lancôme’s abrupt decision to cancel their sponsored concert that starred Hong Kong pro-democracy singer Denise Ho after facing pressure from the mainland.
Last week, mainland Chinese netizens threatened to boycott Lancôme because the French cosmetic brand was sponsoring an event that featured the politically controversial Canto-pop artist. Soon after, Lancôme announced that they were cancelling the concert for “safety reasons” much to the dismay of Ho and her supporters.
Ho, who is also known as HOCC, voiced her response to her concert’s cancellation on her social media channels. She penned a letter written in French, English and Chinese.
Ho wrote to her 250,000 Instagram fans regarding her show’s cancellation. She said:
“My engagement with Lancôme was meant to be a pure artistic collaboration in music. However, the engagement was rudely cancelled unilaterally, with awkward and ambiguous reasons that enraged many of us.”
The South China Morning Post reported dozens of protesters mobbed Lancôme’s main location in Hong Kong located at Lane Crawford in Causeway Bay’s Time Square mall. Other big brands including Yves Saint Laurent and Helena Rubinstein also closed their booths in Time Square to avoid the protests.
The demonstrators chanted slogans and displayed signs that showed a crossed-out “Kowtow to Beijing.” Six pan-democrat leaders were also present at the protest and had signs that read: “We are all Denise Ho, say no to mainland hegemony.”
Among the six politicians leading the protest was lawmaker “Longhair” Leung Kwok Heung. He said:
“This matter is not her [Ho] personal matter, and not the company’s matter either — it is white terror.”
The term “white terror” refers to the period of repression of political dissidents in China and Taiwan following the Shanghai massacre of 1927.
Another political leader, Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man Ching, was also present. Ching described Lancôme’s profit priorities as “blatant, naked and despicable” and alluded to the French motto of “liberty, equality and fraternity.”
Other supporters are standing in solidarity by using #boycottLancome on Twitter. Facebook users have also flocked to Lancôme’s Facebook page to write angry comments. One user wrote:
“Shut down all your stores in Hong Kong if you don’t care about the Hong Kong market.”
A Weibo post from Chinese state media outlet Global Times commented:
“The Chinese public have slowly come to realize that they themselves are an influential market force. As such, they will view unfavorably those artists and outside forces who ‘eat from China’s rice but break her bowl.'”