Outcry compels store to abandon Nazi-themed line

After claiming Hong Kong people were not offended, Izzue removes the offending items following complaints

Fashion chain Izzue bowed to public pressure yesterday and started to remove its line of Nazi-themed clothing from its stores.

The company's actions came a day after its marketing manager had said Hong Kong people did not think the issue was a big deal.

But dozens of people complained and the Israeli and German consulates condemned the use of Nazi insignia to sell clothes.

Izzue was selling T-shirts and other clothing with the insignia and had decorated stores with banners bearing swastikas and displayed Nazi flags from ceilings.

'We really didn't expect such an outcry from the public,' said Gloria Yu, a spokeswoman for parent company I.T. Ltd. She said the firm hoped the decision to remove the clothing would put an end to the row. The company started removing the Nazi clothing from its 14 stores at noon yesterday.

'We will return the merchandise to the warehouse. We will reconsider how to deal with the clothes. We are not promoting Nazism in any sense. We have absolutely no political standpoint.'

Both consulates yesterday welcomed the decision. 'It shows reason has prevailed,' said Heinrich Beuth, the German consul-general. 'It shows the company has been sensitive to these concerns voiced by people.'

The Israeli consulate said it was encouraged by the news, adding: 'Evil should not in any way be legitimised or put forth as normal phenomena.' In the second world war, the Nazis killed six million Jews and millions from other minorities.

The Nazi clothes and the firm's initial reluctance to remove them have angered community groups.

Albert Ho Chun-yan, vice-chairman of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu islands, had planned to protest outside one store unless the clothes were removed. 'They think the people of Hong Kong don't care,' he said.

The Hong Kong Christian Institute said the incident would give a bad impression of Hong Kong to tourists and foreign visitors.

Director Rose Wu said: 'I hope they understand that they are also a member of the community and they have to be responsible. I also wonder how it will affect Hong Kong's image in the international community. Many of the shops are in tourist areas, and tourists can see how unethical they are.'

Sociologist and disc jockey Ho Kwok-leung described the fashion chain as a 'history idiot', adding that young shoppers could have been 'brainwashed' by the clothes.

'Most of its customers are young people. Is it going to make our young people politically ignorant and turn Nazism into a fashion trend?' he asked.

A spokesman for the Trade Development Council said companies should consider the feelings and the responses of different social groups living in Hong Kong.