US shoemaker Vans draws flak for removing design competition entry depicting Hong Kong protests

Vans reportedly removed a submission from its website that depicted both a flower symbol of Hong Kong and protesters wearing gas masks, goggles and hard hats.
Vans reportedly removed a submission from its website that depicted both a flower symbol of Hong Kong and protesters wearing gas masks, goggles and hard hats.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong demonstrations continue to disrupt business for some American companies, and shoemaker Vans is the latest to get tangled up in the protests.

During its annual shoe-design competition that is currently underway, Vans reportedly removed a submission from its website that depicted both a flower symbol of Hong Kong and protesters wearing gas masks, goggles and hard hats.

The move sparked heated backlash across social media. Some called for a boycott of the skateboarding shoe brand popular with young people after it pulled the submission.

In statement posted on its Facebook page, Vans said: "We have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company's long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition."

While it didn't specify which designs it removed, the company said that "a small number of artistic submissions have been removed".

Representatives from Vans and its parent company, VF Corp, didn't respond to requests for comment on Monday (Oct 7).

Sneaker chain Dahood, which operates several Vans franchises in Hong Kong, wrote in a Facebook post last Saturday that it was suspending operations at three locations in the city "until further notice" because of "the controversy caused by the Custom Culture design competition held by Vans worldwide".

Almost four months of protests amid growing discontent over China's grip on Hong Kong has taken a toll on the city's retail businesses and tourism.

 
 

Other US entities have been caught up in the protests halfway around the world.

The National Basketball Association faced criticism from the Chinese government and US politicians after the Houston Rockets' general manager appeared to support the protesters.

Demonstrators called on Starbucks Corp to cancel its franchise in Beijing. Retailers like Levi Strauss & Co have had to temporarily close stores located in Hong Kong.