T-shirts with slogans like “Free Hong Kong, Democracy Now” on Amazon’s website Photo: a screenshot of the Amazon website
US online retail giant Amazon has irritated many in China on Wednesday after some netizens revealed it was selling T-shirts with images and slogans supporting violent protests in Hong Kong and their secessionist movement, which many view as not only offensive but also in violation of China’s sovereignty.
After seeing screenshots of T-shirts with slogans such as “Free Hong Kong, Democracy Now,” many took to social media to express their anger toward the US firm. “Amazon, you can leave China! You don’t even need to apologize this time,” one user on Sina Weibo said.
Coming at a sensitive time when many in the country are frustrated over persistent violence in Hong Kong and over foreign interference in China’s internal affairs regarding Hong Kong, “Amazon T-shirt” instantly became a trending topic on Wednesday, with nearly 110 million views on Sina Weibo as of press time.
A search on Amazon’s website returned results which showed the T-shirts in screenshots circulating online with slogans like “Free Hong Kong, Democracy Now.”
Search results also found two black T-shirts that featured a slogan on the front that reads “[No] China extradition” with a Bauhinia apparently substituted for the letter “O.” The two-shirts were under the category, “Hong Kong Extradition Law Democracy Protest Shirt.”
A Beijing-based consumer, who only gave his last name as Jia, said he was “shocked” to see such T-shirts being sold on Amazon, which, as the largest e-commerce firm in the world, “should be clear on the fact that Hong Kong is part of China and the special administrative region returned to the motherland in 1997.”
“No respect for the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and selling these T-shirts on its own platform severely damage the company’s reputation and I won’t buy anything on it anymore,” Jia told the Global Times on Wednesday. “If it cannot respect your country, how can you expect it to respect consumers or markets?”
Zhang Yiwu, a cultural expert at Peking University, told the Global Times Wednesday that “as an enterprise, it should comply with the principle when doing business.”
“Although there won’t be a huge impact on the company in the short term, it will harm the feelings of Chinese consumers in the long run, which is bound to cripple its development in the country,” said Zhang.
Amazon China did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. After struggling to compete with local e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba and JD.com, Amazon announced in April that it would shut down its e-commerce business in China, but Chinese shoppers can still buy products on Amazon shipped from overseas.
There are also similar T-shirts listed on Amazon by other sellers. A seller called Lynstore listed a black T-shirt that featured a yellow umbrella – the symbol of the secessionist movement in Hong Kong – in between the letters “I” and “HKG.”
In the product description section, where sellers are required by Amazon to write details about the merchandise such as color and material, the seller wrote a clear political message and sought to rally support for the secessionists.
“Show Support! The HKG (Hong Kong) umbrella movement was a student campaign to pressure the government to grant Hong [Kong’s] electoral reform as promised,” the seller wrote. Amazon did not list any information about the seller.
Amazon is the latest company to come under fire in China for products and actions that many Chinese see as disrespect to China’s sovereignty and, in turn, Chinese consumers. Fashion brands such as Versace, Givenchy and Coach have been facing a backlash after listing Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as countries independent of China.
Newspaper headline: Netizens censure Amazon for selling ‘offensive’, ‘disrespectful’ T-shirts