28 October 2016
Many Lancôme customers said the political controversy will not influence their buying decisions. Photo: HKEJ
Many Lancôme customers said the political controversy will not influence their buying decisions. Photo: HKEJ

Mainland visitors still shop at Lancôme amid boycott campaign

Several Hong Kong activist groups have launched a boycott of products from cosmetics giant Lancôme, which was accused of canceling a promotional event featuring pro-democracy Cantopop singer Denise Ho Wan-see under pressure from Beijing.

But the political fuss appears to have hardly discouraged mainland visitors from shopping at its stores, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The French-based company closed its stores in the city on Wednesday due to “safety concerns” as several pro-democracy parties and groups jointly launched a protest campaign at its store in Causeway Bay, but decided to reopen them on Thursday.

On-site observations by media reporters at its stores in Times Square, Sogo and other popular shopping malls showed that protest signs put up by activists at their doorsteps had been removed.

Also, store managers had apparently not taken any enhanced security measures in the wake of the protest.

Customers continued to shop in the stores, although some reports said there were fewer local shoppers.

Many of the customers told HKEJ that they had not heard about the controversy involving Denise Ho. They also said the controversy would not influence their buying decisions.

Meanwhile, the flow of shoppers at Watsons, the retail unit of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (00013.HK) controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, remained normal on Thursday, despite reports that some mainland netizens had called for a boycott of its stores.

The controversy surfaced after MOOV, an online music streaming service under PCCW, said on its Facebook page on Monday that it would offer “permanent employment” to Ho.

The post fueled a fervent discussion of Hong Kong independence on social media, although Ho’s stance on the issue is not clear.  Ho supported the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

On Wednesday PCCW issued a statement saying the company and its chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai have never and will never support independence for Hong Kong. Li is the youngest son of Li Ka-shing.

Ho said in a Facebook post on Thursday that the Communist Party can accuse anyone of being pro-independence without any need for evidence, similar to what happened during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Meanwhile, a retired French teacher, Béatrice Desgranges, has launched an online signature campaign to ask Lancôme to withdraw its decision to cancel the event starring Ho in Sheung Wan on June 19. 

The campaign has gathered 20,000 signatures as of 9 p.m. Thursday.

Avery Ng Man-yuen, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, expressed disappointment that Lancôme and its parent L’Oréal have been silent on the controversy and asked them to either apologize or clarify that the decision was not based on self-censorship, otherwise they will face more action from Hong Kong people.

L’Oréal said there is nothing more to be added to the statement issued on its Facebook account last Sunday, adding that its offices are open as usual on Friday.

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