Lancome slammed for cancelling concert by pro-democracy singer

Cosmetics company Lancome has closed its main stores in Hong Kong amid protests accusing the firm of bowing to China for cancelling a concert by pro-democracy singer Denise Ho.
Protesters displaying posters at a Lancome outlet in a shopping mall after the cosmetics giant cancelled a concert featuring pro-democracy singer Denise Ho.
Protesters displaying posters at a Lancome outlet in a shopping mall after the cosmetics giant cancelled a concert featuring pro-democracy singer Denise Ho.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Holding yellow umbrellas and banners, nearly 100 protesters, including lawmakers and activists, stood outside one of Hong Kong's major shopping centres yesterday rallying against French cosmetics house Lancome for cancelling a concert.

"Boycott! Lancome! No to self-censorship," they chanted while waving yellow umbrellas - a symbol of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement - after the brand called off a concert featuring pro-democracy singer Denise Ho.

Calling for an "international boycott" of Lancome's parent company L'Oreal, the protesters accused the French beauty giant of "kneeling down in the face of autocratic hegemony" after it was questioned by Beijing newspaper Global Times for inviting Ms Ho, who the paper said was "a Hong Kong and Tibet independence advocate".

Said Ms Angela Chung, a retiree in her 60s who was among the protesters: "Even if it's the last brand on earth that sells cosmetics, I would rather look old and ugly without make-up."

The episode has further split an already polarised society, pitting mainlanders against Hong Kongers. At least two petitions have been launched online against Lancome's decision.

SUPPORT FOR BOYCOTT

Even if it's the last brand on earth that sells cosmetics, I would rather look old and ugly without make-up.

RETIREE ANGELA CHUNG, who was among the protesters, on boycotting L'Oreal.

A report by pro-Beijing Chinese daily Ta Kung Pao yesterday described Ms Ho as more than a "simple singer". It said she is a politician packaged as a singer, who actively participated in the Occupy Central protests in 2014, calling on Beijing to allow fully free elections.

Protesters threatened to launch a larger campaign to boycott L'Oreal if there is no apology from Lancome by the end of this week.

But they acknowledged that they have considerably less consumer power than the mainland, which is the second-largest market for L'Oreal after the United States.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy legislator Leung Kwok Hung told The Straits Times: "Today is the beginning. We will create more attention by asking Hong Kongers to take out all their L'Oreal products in a mass destruction exercise."

L'Oreal has a market capitalisation of €95 billion (S$146 billion). Yesterday, Lancome closed some of its outlets in Hong Kong ahead of the protest.

It could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Joyce Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Lancome slammed for cancelling concert by pro-democracy singer'. Print Edition | Subscribe