Mainland consumers hail Vans for removing HK protester design

By GT staff member Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/9 0:43:39

Photo: screenshot of Vans' website

US shoe-maker Vans' decision to remove a sneaker design, which supports Hong Kong protesters, from a global design contest has drawn support from Chinese mainland consumers. 

Some have said this move shows that Vans, which has seen robust revenue growth in the Chinese market, has "understood the situation" very well and is making efforts not to follow the path of the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets. 

According to industry observers, the recent series of cases involving US firms' relations with Chinese consumers also sent a warning to foreign businesspeople: if companies do not want to trap themselves in business woes, respecting the Chinese market and the sentiments of Chinese consumers should always be the priority. 

The controversial design was reportedly uploaded to the competition platform by a Canada-based user during the annual Vans Customs Culture competition, where voting opened to the public on October 1 and is set to end on October 13. 

The design featured a red bauhinia, the flower depicted on Hong Kong's flag, a yellow umbrella and images of people in hard hats, goggles and gas masks - the typical clothing of anti-government forces in Hong Kong. 

On October 4, angry Chinese internet users swarmed Vans' official account on China's Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo, demanding a detailed explanation of the shoes. 

Vans withdrew the design on October 5. In a statement posted on the company's Facebook account the same day, it confirmed that "a small number" of submissions had been removed. 

"This decision was taken to uphold the purpose of Customs Culture… As a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position," it said. 

When contacted by the Global Times, a customer service employee of Vans China's website said that the company has "already disqualified the design from the global competition after they found out it does not comply with the competition rules." 

"The design and the creation only represent the personal view of the participant, and it has nothing to do with the brand's stance," said the employee.

Chinese people have applauded Vans' decision on various social networking platforms, saying the move set an example for "normal businesspeople." 

"I will wear Vans from tomorrow," Weibo user daxiongbaba posted. 

A 29-year-old Beijing worker, who only gave the surname Chen, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he appreciated the US firm's decision to remove the controversial design, despite it being "kind of slow" and "kind of vague about its Hong Kong stance."  

"I saw the US firm's desire for survival in China after the NBA's business pitfalls. It does not want to be the next Houston Rockets," Chen added. 

Vans' revenue grew 17 percent in China and 9 percent in the US for the financial year ending on March 30, media reports said.

For responsible global companies that pocket profits from the Chinese market, they should abide by Chinese regulations and respect the feelings of the Chinese people who oppose the Hong Kong riots, analysts warned, after recent incidents involving foreign firms' Hong Kong stances emerged. 

Companies should never cross Chinese people's bottom line in order to survive in China, Yang Qingshan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told the Global Times.

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