Boycott calls as Lancome axes concert of Hong Kong activist

Police arrest Denise Ho (centre), after she refused to leave the junction of Tim Wa Avenue and Harcourt Road in December 2014.
Police arrest Denise Ho (centre), after she refused to leave the junction of Tim Wa Avenue and Harcourt Road in December 2014.PHOTO: APPLE DAILY

HONG KONG (AFP) - Cosmetics giant Lancome faced boycott calls on Monday (June 6) after cancelling a concert featuring a Hong Kong activist who has been critical of China.

Pop singer Denise Ho was due to appear in the promotional event on June 19.

But Lancome said late Sunday it was axing the gig for "possible safety reasons", sparking anger among Hong Kong netizens.

Many in the southern Chinese city believe the cancellation was a reaction to comments in China's state-run Global Times.

The paper said on social media on Saturday that Lancome was cooperating with a "Hong Kong poison" and a "Tibet poison" - a reference to Ho's praise for the Dalai Lama.

A flurry of angry commentary broke out online after the Lancome announcement, with more than 20,000 tagging an "angry" face on the brand's Facebook page for the Hong Kong market.

Some threatened to boycott its products.

One person, Ng Yuen-yan, said: "Rubbish. I will never buy (its products)." Another, Winnie Leung, said: "Are you kidding me? Are you saying Hong Kong is not a safe place? If this is so, I would highly suggest Lancome retreat your business out of Hong Kong... this incident is definitely a good example of what we called 'PR disaster'."

The concert had earlier faced criticism in mainland China, where netizens said Lancome was using money from Chinese customers to support independence for Hong Kong and Tibet.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "One country, two systems" agreement and enjoys much greater liberties than in mainland China.

But there are growing fears its freedoms and semi-autonomous status are being eroded as Beijing tightens its grip.

Ho demanded an explanation for the cancellation.

"Freedom, justice and equality have always been pursued by Hong Kongers," she said in a statement on her Facebook page.

"We must seriously face up to this when an international brand is bending to bullies." Last month, Ho posted a picture of her with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on her Facebook account, describing him as the "most respected teacher".