The situation kicked off last week when L’Oréal-owned Lancome cancelled its planned concert following criticism of its billed headline act, Cantopop singer Denise Ho, by China’s nationalist Global Times.
The state-run Chinese media outlet voiced criticism of Ho due to her pro-democracy activism, lambasting Lancome’s apparent endorsement of a figure “who supports Hong Kong independence and endorses the ringleader of Tibet independence.”
The furore is part of the on-going tension between Hong Kong and mainland China over the issue of Hong Kong’s independence, and appears to confirm that the situation is impacting on market interests in the region.
In response to the state media criticism and reported political pressure from China, along with the threat of a consumer boycott, the beauty giant released a statement last week distancing itself from Ho, who was arrested in 2014 for participating in a demo supporting free elections in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong actress Denise Ho is not a spokesperson of Lancôme. We are sorry for the confusion caused. Thank you for your continuous support of Lancôme,” the brand stated.
Following this statement, Lancome then cancelled the ‘Energizing Factory Event’ completely over the weekend, citing ‘safety reasons’ in a post on its Facebook page.
In response, the Global Times has since released an editorial piece which is crowing in tone, celebrating its sway over the situation: “The mainland public has realized that they are an influential market force. They will be picky about external celebrities who count on China for business while tarnishing China's image.”
Public backlash across the globe
Lancome’s move has provoked anger within Hong Kong, with consumers and commentators across the globe also voicing dissatisfaction with the company’s decision.
Though Lancome may have avoided a boycott in China, it has stirred up a continuing media storm, and consumers in Hong Kong are now planning a boycott of their own.