26 October 2016
After Lancôme cancelled her June 19 event, Denise Ho (R) is preparing to perform for free on the same date and at the same location. Photos: Facebook/Hocc
After Lancôme cancelled her June 19 event, Denise Ho (R) is preparing to perform for free on the same date and at the same location. Photos: Facebook/Hocc

Why the Denise Ho-Lancôme controversy may die down

It’s now more than ten days since Lancôme announced the cancellation of a promotional event featuring Cantopop artist and pro-democracy supporter Denise Ho, sparking a controversy.

The French cosmetics brand cited security reasons for the abandoned Hong Kong gig, but most people believe the company chickened out due to perceived pressure from Beijing. 

The speculation is not off the mark, given that Ho was dumped soon after a mainland newspaper warned foreign firms against patronizing artists who may be supporting pro-independence groups.

As Lancôme was deemed to have buckled under pressure, it came under much criticism and ridicule in Hong Kong and also faced some boycott calls.

While is no escape from the negative press and unfavorable social media comments, the French brand has been hoping that the controversy will die down and that things will get back to normal.

Well, that may indeed happen, going by signs that people’s focus is shifting to other matters.

After a few protests outside Lancôme outlets last week, there has not been any follow-up action by citizens’ groups or political figures to demand a formal response from Lancôme management.

We need not be surprised if the whole matter fades from the public’s mind in the coming weeks.

With the Legislative Council election just about three months away, people will turn their attention to the campaign issues and a debate over whether Leung Chun-ying should be allowed a second term in Hong Kong’s top job next year.

Also, we must bear in mind that the so-called localist groups in Hong Kong have remained largely indifferent to the Lancôme-Denise Ho controversy. 

No localist group leader has come out in support of Ho, even though the singer has faced retribution from Beijing for supporting the 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protests.

There seems to be strange ambivalence among some groups on what matters they will take up.

Meanwhile, political parties have been accused of trying to use the Ho issue for their own ends, rather than stand with the artist and help her get an official apology from Lancôme.

The sad truth is that most politicians have narrow agendas, focused only on issues that will yield electoral dividends and career benefits. 

As for the public, they have short attention spans, taking their mind from one issue to the other.

With Lancôme staying mum and the company receding from newspaper headlines, people’s interest in the Denise Ho affair is already beginning to wane. 

That comes even as the Cantopop singer has reminded the public that she is still owed an apology from the French firm.

On Tuesday, Ho announced that she will hold a concert and community event on June 19, the same date when she had been scheduled to perform for Lancôme.

The event, which will have “freedom” as its theme, will take place at the same location and time as the cancelled show.

In a statement on her official Facebook page, Ho invited people to “respond to oppression and fear” in Hong Kong “using music and culture” at the event which has been titled “The Beauty of We”.

But she added that the show will feature “no politics, no slogans, no banners, no catchphrases, no organizations, or big companies”.

That suggests that even the singer wants to keep her problem with Lancôme from getting politicized further.

Given the realities in Hong Kong, we can only say that Ho is just being pragmatic.

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EJ Insight writer

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