Vitasoy's statement of 'supporting HK stability' following public outrage 'lacks sincerity'
Published: Jul 03, 2021 12:27 AM
Vitasoy Photo:VCG

Vitasoy Photo:VCG

A strong condemnation against Vitasoy's drink products was sparked online Friday among netizens in both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland after the Hong Kong-based enterprise was criticized for offering condolences over the employee who stabbed a HK police officer on Thursday and then committed suicide.

The officer who suffered a punctured lung in the attack on Thursday evening underwent surgery. The attacker, described by authorities as a "lone-wolf domestic terrorist," was an employee of Vitasoy.

Vitasoy, which earns 70 percent of its revenue from the Chinese mainland market, is facing a big crisis of consumer confidence as the repugnance of patriotic residents from the mainland and Hong Kong toward the company grows, observers found on Friday. Tags such as "boycott Vitasoy," "stay away from Vitasoy," and "Vitasoy get out of Chinese mainland" quickly appeared on Twitter-like Sina Weibo and generated millions of reads and comments on the same day.

Mainland actor Gong Jun, who previously endorsed a Vitasoy lemon-flavor drink product, announced late Friday he was ending commercial cooperation with Vitasoy. "We resolutely resist all forms of extreme acts including violence and terrorism," Gong's workshop posted on Weibo. "We firmly safeguard social stability and the interests of the motherland."

Following Gong, another actor from the mainland Ren Jialun also announced to end all cooperation with Vitasoy. "Ren firmly opposes any remarks and actions that violate laws, undermine national unity and stability or harm national interests," Ren's studio wrote on Weibo late Friday night.

In response, Vitasoy posted a statement on its official Weibo account around 12am Saturday, saying it "fully supports Hong Kong authorities in conducting a thorough investigation into the case based on the national security law." "[We] are committed to supporting the stability, prosperity and development of the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong," it stated.

Nonetheless, Weibo users found they were banned by the Vitasoy account to comment under this statement. The company hasn't made similar statements on overseas social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter as of 1 am Saturday.

Many Weibo users also pointed out that Vitasoy didn't mention its previous inappropriate remarks in the latest statement, which was deemed as an act lacking sincerity. 

Hong Kong beverage company Vitasoy International Holdings confirmed that the deceased stabber, 50-year-old Leung Kin-fai, was the director of the purchasing department of its Hong Kong unit and said it contacted Leung's family to follow up and extend condolences, according to an internal announcement by the company on Friday circulated online.

Vitasoy's statement enraged some netizens in Hong Kong, who took to social media to criticize the company for indirectly condoning violence.

"The man who attacked the police yesterday was a Vitasoy employee. Instead of apologizing to the police and society for the attack, Vitasoy's statement described the mob's suicide as 'unfortunate,'" a Hong Kong-based Twitter user wrote on Friday evening, adding that Vitasoy's corporate image had been damaged by its misplaced remarks.

Some netizens in the mainland commented that Vitasoy's announcement showed that the company is an "incubator of terrorists."

"A company with such values is really killing me. I really can't accept it. As a human being, I really look down on it," commented one Sina Weibo user, who said he has been drinking Vitasoy products for many years.

Media reported that Leung left a number of suicide notes before attacking the police officer. Detectives conducted an investigation in his office on Friday.

Hong Kong police strongly condemned this "lone-wolf domestic terrorist" attack and reminded all police officers on duty and citizens to be vigilant of potential violence that could reoccur in this city.

In a statement that Hong Kong's Police Force Council Staff Associations sent to the Global Times on Friday, it censured violent acts that seriously endanger the lives of others and disrupt social tranquility.

"[We] also sternly warn those who incited hatred online and instigated others to participate in illegal activities: you are the ones who drove the attacker astray, and your hands are also stained with blood," said the statement. "You are responsible for the crimes committed by the [offenders] that you instigated. While your wrongdoings are criticized by the public, the police will continue to do its utmost to bring the illegal instigators of violence to justice."

The police called on Hong Kong citizens to immediately report any suspicious activities they encountered. "Do not allow homegrown terrorism to take root in Hong Kong," it noted in the statement.

Tags such as "boycott Vitasoy" and "stay away from Vitasoy" quickly appeared on Twitter-like Sina Weibo and generated millions of reads on Friday.

Vitasoy's revenue grew 4 percent year-on-year to HK$7.52 billion ($968.2 million) for the fiscal year ending on March 31 2021, which Vitasoy said was driven by the Chinese mainland market delivering a solid 11 percent annual increase.

According to its latest financial results released on June 17, revenues generated in the mainland market stood at HK$5.01 billion, accounting for 66.6 percent of its total revenue in the 2020/21 fiscal year, up from 62.3 percent in the last fiscal year.

Sales of Vitasoy drinks ranked first among beverage brands on during the Double Eleven online shopping spree in 2020. Its gross merchandise volume (GMV) on Tmall increased 307 percent on a yearly basis.

Global Times