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Lancôme, the cosmetics company owned by French cosmetics giant L’Oreal, was forced to shut their main stores in Hong Kong last Wednesday due to mass protest over a cancelled concert by artist Denise Ho (HOCC).

This all started because the French cosmetics giant cancelled a promotional concert featuring the pro-democracy activist.

Denise Ho has always been known to openly speak her mind and values, and has formerly been arrested during Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014. The announcement of her performance caused much backlash online in Mainland China causing Netizens to shun Lancôme (a subsidiary of L’Oreal). China being the second largest market for L’Oreal after the United States, decided to cancel the event, claiming it was due to “possible safety reasons” and even made a public announcement clarifying that Ho was not the brand’s spokesperson.

Ho expressed that she was saddened by the incident, but was not necessarily surprised by Lancôme’s actions. She stated that “this wasn’t the first time that a Hong Kong celebrity has been harshly removed from a campaign following some protests or uproars from the Chinese tabloids or Chinese internet users”.

Angry Hong Kong citizens thus gathered in protest accusing the brand of bowing to China. Carrying yellow umbrellas, a symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, and colourful banners in Chinese, English and French, they shouted “L’Oreal! No to self-censorship” causing Hong Kong’s Lancôme stores to close for the day.

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Ho exclaimed that “I am quite shocked that a global brand such as Lancôme, they would succumb to the pressure from Chinese tabloid news or the Chinese market. Cause we, we actually, in Hong Kong these two years, have been going through really rough times. With most of the celebrities, we wouldn’t dare to speak out for ourselves because we know that self-censorship is really serious right now in Hong Kong. But I wouldn’t think that worldwide brands such as Lancôme or L’Oréal they would succumb to this kind of pressure.” she told the BBC in an interview.

“When a brand like Lancome has to kneel down to a bullying hegemony, we must face the problem seriously as the world’s values have been seriously twisted” she said.

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She thanks all the international press that has shown interest and concern in the incident and expresses “that this is not solely about me and Lancôme, nor only about Hong Kong, this is about suppression and self-censorship that is affecting global market and brands, and the white terror that is spreading among our societies, working to silence all. It is a serious issue, and we Hongkongers refuse to succumb to such fear. I hereby urge all of you to stand up against it, and to fight for the basic human right that is the freedom of speech.”

The star calls out for an explanation from L’Oréal’s Hong Kong President, Mr. Stephen Mosely and has since initiated a petition to reorganise the initial concert event. The petition will help bring awareness in fighting for the rights of Hong Kong people to defend the values of “freedom, justice and equality”