BEIJING/MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish style brand Zara, looking for to avoid becoming involved in controversy over demonstrations in Hong Kong, issued a statement on Chinese social networks expressing assistance for China’s sovereignty over the Asian monetary hub.
Zara, owned by the world’s greatest clothing merchant Inditex (ITX.MC), made its declaration late on Monday after Hong Kong paper Ming Pao asked if closure of four Hong Kong Zara shops on Monday remained in support of a trainee strike, prompting comment from countless mainland social networks users.
Zara stated in its statement on China’s Weibo social networks platform that it supported the “one country, 2 systems” policy under which China guidelines Hong Kong and said it had not supported strikes.
The brand name became a top trending subject on Weibo, with one hashtag “Zara declaration” viewed more than 170 million times since Tuesday early morning.
A source near Inditex stated on Tuesday that some Zara shops in Hong Kong had been required to postpone opening on Monday due to the fact that personnel had trouble getting to work due to transfer problems linked to the demonstrations, but that all Zara shops in Hong Kong opened ultimately on Monday.
Thousands of Hong Kong university and school students boycotted class on Monday and rallied peacefully for democracy, following a weekend marred by some of the worst violence since unrest intensified more than three months ago.
Shops in Hong Kong have frequently shut their doors when demonstrations are occurring nearby.
Foreign brand names are under increasing pressure from Chinese customers and regulators to fall under line on controversial concerns around Chinese sovereignty and its territorial claims.
Inditex has numerous stores in China including other fashion brands like Massimo Dutti and Bershka alongside Zara. China is 2nd only to domestic market Spain in number of shops for the merchant.
Many Western fashion brands have been forced to clarify their positions on Chinese sovereignty as the Hong Kong protests fuel nationalist eagerness on social media.
Last month, a number of Chinese brand name ambassadors of fashion labels from Coach to Givenchy severed ties with the business over products which they stated violated China’s sovereignty by determining Hong Kong and Taiwan as nations.
In 2015, Zara was criticized on Chinese social media for putting Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China sees as a break-away province, in a pull-down list of countries on its Chinese site.
Reporting by Pei Li and Tony Munroe; Extra reporting by Sonya Dowsett in Madrid; Editing by Robert Birsel and Susan Fenton
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