SHANGHAI (AFP) - Tiffany & Co have removed a tweet showing a woman covering one eye after Chinese consumers accused the jeweller of supporting the Hong Kong protesters.
The photo posted on Monday (Oct 7) showed Chinese model Sun Feifei wearing a Tiffany ring on her right hand as it covers her right eye.
Angry Chinese buyers believed it was a deliberate echo of the pose adopted by Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators to denounce police violence in the semi-autonomous city.
Hong Kong protesters - who have rallied for months against Beijing's authoritarianism - adopted the pose obscuring one eye after the first of two women received eye injuries during violent clashes with police.
But Tiffany's spokesman said the image was created in May - before the protests erupted - and "in no way intended to be a political statement of any kind".
"We regret that it may be perceived as such, and in turn have removed the image from our digital and social media channels and will discontinue its use effective immediately."
The campaign also included model Carolyn Murphy covering her right eye with one of Tiffany's distinctive blue jewellery boxes.
Chinese consumers said the brand had been inconsiderate in posting the photos during a sensitive time.
"I used to be your hardcore fan, but now I'm a Chinese first and foremost. I love my country and I won't allow her to receive any defamation or violation," one person posted on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo.
"Whoever buys their products is blind," another post read.
Tiffany's CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said in August that continuous business disruptions in Hong Kong had impacted the company, estimating six full selling days were lost due to unplanned store closures during the second quarter of this year.
Mr Bogliolo said the city was the brand's fourth-largest market by sales - after the US, Japan and mainland China.
New York-based Tiffany opened its largest-ever product exhibition in Shanghai in September, a move it hoped would attract young Chinese customers.
The company's sales grew more than 25 per cent in mainland China between March and June - a stark contrast to a three per cent drop in the company's global turnover in the same period.
Tiffany has 35 shops in mainland China, and plans to open branches of its Blue Box Cafe in Hong Kong and Shanghai.