Rally over 'photo ban' shuts retailer
The flagship store of fashion house Dolce & Gabbana in Tsim Sha Tsui was forced to close yesterday as hundreds of protesters gathered after an apparent incident involving locals taking pictures of its storefront.
Now in its third day, the protest was in response to a Facebook campaign launched last week after shop security guards reportedly barred passers-by from taking pictures. There was no official estimate but some reporters counted about 800 who joined the rally on Canton Road. Police maintained order but did not intervene.
Many demonstrators said they wanted to voice their opposition to what they called an unreasonable and discriminatory policy. A shop guard reportedly said last week that only mainlanders could take pictures of the storefront.
'This is clear discrimination against Hong Kong people, depriving us of our freedom,' said Elaine Ngan, a 31-year-old teacher. 'I have never taken part in a protest before but I must step out this time.'
Marco Chow, 13, attended the protest with his father, who said the event was a good lesson on the meaning of freedom. 'Everyone is born equal, so why should the shop only welcome mainland Chinese?' the teenager said. 'It should apologise to the locals.'
One demonstrator stuck paper money meant for the dead on the shop's windows, forming the Chinese character for 'shameful'.
Another protester who did not want to be named said rich companies had too much power in Hong Kong. 'Hegemony in the property business was followed by supermarket hegemony, and now it's luxury hegemony,' he said.
The shop is part of the Harbour City shopping mall, and the plaza's management issued an apology on the internet two days ago.
Tourism-sector legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun was among those taking part in the protest. 'Confrontation might arise if visitors are allowed to take pictures while locals are not,' he said. 'In no way is this conducive to the tourism industry.'
Chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen has said businesses should welcome people taking photos, and it should be regarded as a gesture of appreciation.
A sociologist said the protest indicated resentment among some locals against big businesses and luxury retailers.
'The huge crowd reflects the fact some locals hold a grievance towards luxury brands,' said Dr Chan Kin-man, an associate professor at Chinese University's sociology department. 'This also shows many local companies, who are becoming increasingly reliant on shoppers from the mainland, have adopted a discriminatory attitude against locals.'
The local office of Dolce & Gabbana said yesterday that 'controversial statements' reported in the press had not been made by its staff.
'We wish to underline that our company has not taken part in any action aiming at offending the Hong Kong public,' it said.