Police with shields block mainland Chinese from Causeway Bay firm after rip-off claims
Police armed with shields yesterday blocked mainlanders from entering the Causeway Bay premises of a marketing firm they say owes them a total of HK$10 million.
The protesters - mostly from Guangdong and Hunan provinces - claimed to be victims of a scheme run by health and beauty products distributor Digital Crown Holdings HK (DCHL).
About 50 mainlanders plan to march to government headquarters today calling for a ban on multilevel marketing schemes.
Before police intervened yesterday, security guards employed by DCHL obstructed photographers and reporters from taking pictures.
The crowd claimed they had been tricked into buying products such as wine, jewellery and fragrance that had almost no resale value.
"Down with DCHL!" and "Pay us back our hard-earned money!" were among the slogans the group chanted in Putonghua.
One protester, who was seeking signatures for a petition to be presented to the government today, said they had suffered individual losses of HK$80,000 to HK$3 million. The total, he said, added up to some HK$10 million.
He claimed the group numbered about 150.
They plan to march this morning from Sogo department store in Causeway Bay, where DCHL has another office, to the government offices in Tamar, Admiralty.
The protesters allege they were recruited to become individual distributors during four-day "brainwashing" sessions in Hong Kong and that they were told they would be rewarded through a complex system of bonuses according to their seniority.
But they never received any commission, they said, and the products they bought were unknown brands of watches or jewellery worth only a fraction of the alleged market price.
"I paid HK$300,000 for ED Pinaud jewellery, which I was told was a French brand, but it was worth only about HK$1,000 when I had it valued at a pawnbroker," one protester said.
"[Multilevel marketing] is now banned on the mainland as well as in Macau. The Hong Kong government should do the same as soon as possible," another protester said.
DCHL is allowed to operate in Hong Kong under a law that permits multilevel marketing, but such tactics are banned across the border as pyramid selling.
On October 7, more than 50 mainlanders from Guizhou province and Shenzhen marched on the Tamar offices calling for tighter sales laws in the city.
Video: Mainland Chinese protest against a Hong Kong beauty product company, claim to be cheated