Hong Kong - A company is the world's largest coffee chain. The other runs a Japanese restaurant empire. The third has produced some of the most popular online games in the world.
These global companies - Starbucks, Yoshinoya and Activision Blizzard - seem to have nothing to do with Hong Kong's political dissatisfaction. But for some of the democratic protesters in Hong Kong and their growing global supporters, right or wrong, these companies are regarded as sympathizers of the CCP, and therefore a legitimate and reasonable goal of resisting or even destroying.
Protesters are documenting what they see as their relationship with China and then spreading it on mobile apps and websites—sometimes based on rumors or remarks from executives or their families. Starbucks and Yoshinoya have repeatedly been targeted by companies that own their franchise in Hong Kong, while World of Warcraft developer Activision Blizzard has been attacked for trying to cunify a Hong Kong player who supports democracy. resist.
抗议者正在把他们看来是这些公司与中国的关系记录下来，然后在移动应用程序和网站上传播——有时基于的只是谣言，或是高管或其家人的言论。星巴克和吉野家因为拥有它们在香港特许经营权的公司而多次成为攻击目标，而《魔兽世界》(World of Warcraft)的开发商动视暴雪则因试图审查一名支持民主的香港玩家而遭到了抵制。
The months of Hong Kong protests and their dangerous politics are spreading overseas, leaving more and more companies and executives in trouble, no matter which country they come from. All of these companies have spent years cultivating their own brands, but now they find that any suggestion that does not support protesters threatens their reputation.
Some companies are caught in a wandering situation trying to avoid problems related to protests. They must avoid offending China with a huge market and not want to offend Hong Kong activists who are enthusiastically supported by Westerners and Taiwanese. After a recent tweet, the NBA found itself in a dilemma.
“All the companies here are in the middle of their own remarks, whether it’s about Hong Kong or the mainland’s remarks,” said David Webb, an activist who promotes equity in Hong Kong.
As activists increasingly turn to disruption and resistance, the vulnerability of these companies is increasing. Hong Kong’s reputation as a centre of liberal capitalism and one of the world’s most friendly business environments has been compromised. These days, cleaners often clean the broken glass in shops where the windows are broken. At the same time, in the shadow of the glittering skyscrapers, the graffiti on the closed store door is often seen.
Last weekend, protesters called on people to go to the mall to hold a rally, and called for boycotts of restaurants and shops allegedly in the pro-middle, and a small number of hardcore elements encouraged to “refurbish” or “decorate” these merchants (painting graffiti) ).
At a Starbucks store in Tseung Kwan O, some protesters broke the glass shelves with hammers and fire extinguishers, and others threw plates and trays on the ground. The counter was painted with the words "Scorpio Communist Party".
Some protesters attacked the subway station, including the use of burning bottles. Many people believe that the Hong Kong Railway Company (MTR), which operates the MTR, has been working with local officials to weaken the protests by closing some stations, ending services early, and even shutting down the entire subway system.
The MTR’s explanation for the closure of the station is: “The destruction or violent acts of the operating stations will endanger the safety of other passengers and subway workers.”
“I feel very sad when I see people destroying public facilities and shops, because repairing facilities costs money,” said Michelle Tang, a 40-year-old salesperson. "I hope peace and freedom will come again here," she said when she talked about Hong Kong. "Now, if someone breaks the glass around me, I can't say anything."
As the campaign became a protracted war, activists were systematically pushing for a greater resistance.
A group has developed an app called WhatsGap that tells residents which restaurants to visit and which restaurants to visit. Restaurants that are considered friendly to protests are marked in yellow on a map of Hong Kong, while those that are considered unfriendly are marked in black. The developer of this app is going to add the store as well.
“For many people who are not on the front line, this is what they can do,” said Alison Yung, a 36-year-old event planner, who supported the protests. "They can support this movement in this way."
On campus, college students distributed cards with a list of boycotted businesses and held sit-ins at the stores on campus. Last month, the cafeteria of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Shan Heng College was occupied twice.
The catering supplier of this buffet restaurant is Maxim Foods Co., Ltd., and Maxim is also a franchisor of Starbucks in Hong Kong. The reason why Maxim caused the anger of activists was because his founder’s daughter, Wu Shuqing, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council last month that the protesters were “thugs” and said they did not represent Hong Kong.
Maxim issued a statement saying that Wu Shuqing has no position in the company, and the company hopes that this ongoing political conflict "all parties can resolve differences."
Starbucks did not respond to requests for comment from reporters.
Yoshinoya also caught the attention of activists because the Hong Kong executives of the company had cancelled their contract with an advertising company. The advertising company posted a message ridiculing the police on Yoshino’s Facebook page. Hexing Group Holdings Co., Ltd., which operates Yoshinoya in Hong Kong, did not respond to calls from reporters for comments.
The CEO of the local convenience store chain, Premium 360, was accused of having relationships with criminal groups from Fujian Province, China, which have clashed with protesters. (Excellent 360 denies any such relationship.)
McDonald’s is a dilemma for the sport. The chain is ubiquitous in Hong Kong (and open 24 hours a day), and some people show their support to the protesters by buying McDonald's coupons, allowing them to stick to the long demonstrations. But some activists pointed out that in 2017, McDonald's sold 80% of its shares in China and Hong Kong to a private equity group consisting of Chinese state-owned CITIC Group and New York-based Carlyle Group.
The international community’s support for protests makes it harder for companies to deal with this issue.
Last week, after the Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent a tweet to support the protests, the Chinese government punished the NBA. After the alliance opened its distance with Morey, some Americans began to play "Free Hong Kong" posters and banners on the field, and members of Congress also criticized the NBA.
上周，休斯顿火箭队(Houston Rockets)总经理达里尔·莫雷(Daryl Morey)发推文支持抗议活动后，中国政府惩罚了NBA。在该联盟拉开了自己与莫雷的距离之后，一些美国人开始在赛场打出“Free Hong Kong”（自由香港）的海报和横幅，国会议员们也批评了NBA。
Activision Blizzard faced a similar strong reaction after Hong Kong's e-sports player Wu Weicong suspended his qualifications in the live broadcast of the protests. Blizzard confiscated the $10,000 prize from the screen name Blitzchung. Many gamers have called for a boycott of Blizzard; dozens of Blizzard employees have protested in the form of a sudden exit from the office at the company's California headquarters; members of Congress have also voiced.
Blizzard said on Friday that the company will return the bonus to Wu Weicong and shorten his suspension time to six months. The company also claimed that the relationship with China did not play any role in its initial decision.
Whether the strong reaction to global brands will bring financial losses to the company remains to be seen. Some of the actions that protesters are considering may not have much effect.
For example, protesters have been calling for a boycott of Cathay Pacific because the company has fired or punished employees involved in the protests under pressure from Beijing. But for those who want to fly directly from Hong Kong to Chinese cities, in most cases, it is impossible to fly without Cathay Pacific or a Chinese state-owned airline. These days, the flight between Hong Kong and mainland China is not because of boycotts, but because many Chinese want to avoid protests.
Some activists have made mistakes in choosing which companies to target. Shanghai Commercial Bank is an example. Activists destroyed at least one of the bank's branches, apparently they thought it was a mainland bank.
But this is a Hong Kong bank. Its motto is "Serving the Society."