Dolce & Gabbana controversy stokes tensions between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong
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More than a thousand people gathered in front of a Dolce & Gabbana store in Hong Kong last weekend and not because of a sale. They were there to protest. They accuse the Italian luxury brand of discriminating against local residents and only catering to rich clients from the mainland.
More than a thousand people gathered in front of a Dolce & Gabbana store in Hong Kong last weekend and not because of a sale. They were there to protest. The protestors accuse the Italian luxury brand of discriminating against local residents and only catering to rich clients from the mainland.
The controversy all started on January 5, when a photographer gave an interview to the Apple Daily newspaper in which he claimed that Dolce & Gabbana’s security guards stopped him from taking a picture of the store’s window displays. He said store employees told him that the store was private property and that only people from mainland China and foreign tourists were allowed to step through its doors.
The story quickly spread online, and in a matter of hours garnered hundreds of comments from web users who accused the brand of discrimination. Soon, a Facebook page called “10,000 people to photograph D&G” was created. Although organisers didn’t reach their stated goal, more than a thousand people gathered in front of the store on January 9 to demand an apology. Faced with this angry crowd, the store’s manager decided to call it a day and close the shop early.
Responding to a call on Facebook, Hong Kong residents came out for a protest on January 8, during which they photographed the store en masse.
Later that evening, the company finally made a statement in which it said it never “acted with the goal of hurting Hong Kong resident.” But that same evening, a Dolce & Gabanna employee posted a comment on a social media network saying that the protesters were “immature” and “mentally deranged,” which further angered Hong Kong natives.
Long under British rule, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and is now designated as a ‘special autonomous region.’ The island has kept considerable autonomy, notably in regards to its political system. Its residents have also clung on to their Cantonese culture, which many local residents fear is being overtaken by mainland Chinese cultural influences.
This photo of a protester was published on Chinese social media networks.
“Locals feel like second class shoppers, or even second class citizens”
Kay Lam is a blogger and journalist in Hong Kong.
“Dolce & Gabbana first issued a statement saying that these measures were meant to ‘protect their intellectual property’. Such an explanation is hard to understand, as their products are easily found in catalogues, magazines, advertisements and even on the Web. Not to mention that mainland China – not Hong Kong – is rather well known for pirating intellectual property!
Locals feel like they’re second class shoppers, or even second class citizens. Some even say it’s worse than when we were ruled by the British.
Mainlanders and locals regularly clash. Recently, parents from mainland China let their child defecate in public in the Harbour City shopping mall, where the Dolce & Gabbana store is located. This is absolutely intolerable for locals.
“The relationship between Hong Kong and the mainlanders
is extremely tense right now”
The relationship between the two communities is extremely tense right now, for many reasons. After the handover in 1997, the communists promised Hong Kong citizens a high degree of autonomy. But they broke their promise by ‘reinterpreting’ the law. They pushed back legislative elections from 2008 to ‘at earliest, 2020’ and the election for chief executive from 2007 to ‘at earliest, 2017’.
Hong Kong’s current government is just a puppet. It seldom takes care of its own people, instead introducing policies approved by Beijing. For example, 95% of people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese [which is one of the island’s two official languages, the other being English]. And yet the department of education has set a long-term target of changing all Chinese-language courses from Cantonese to Mandarin, the language spoken in mainland China.
Here’s another example: the government subsidises education for mainland students instead of local students. In graduate schools, nearly 60% of students come from the mainland.
A few years ago, Hong Kong was still one of the most promising countries among the Four Asian Tigers. But Hong Kong’s economy has stalled for over a decade. The middle class has gotten poorer; meanwhile, housing prices are among the highest in the world.
Owing to unreliable products on the mainland and a favourable tax rate here, a lot of mainland Chinese come to Hong Kong to shop like crazy. This can hurt the locals. For example, during the powdered milk scandal [in 2008], some Hong Kong vendors accepted bribes to sell their milk to mainlanders first. This created a shortage for local babies.”
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Another photo of a protester published on Chinese social media networks.