D&G tries to diffuse HK anger over photo ban

Late Sunday, Dolce & Gabbana issued a press release to try to diffuse the anger mounting over what Hong Kongers are viewing as "discriminatory" practises favouring mainland Chinese.

Last week, local newspaper Apple Daily reported that Hong Kong citizens were banned from taking pictures of the storefront of the Italian retailer, and posted a video online showing security guards telling journalists to stop taking pictures of the store.

According to the report, D&G defended its policy, arguing that it was protecting its intellectual property, although the pictures were being taken from the public sidewalk.

However, what truly incensed the public was not just the infringement of of the locals' rights to take pictures in a public space, but what Hong Kongers are saying is D&G's favouritism towards its mainland Chinese customers.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that representatives of the high fashion house said that Hong Kong natives were banned from photographing its store facade, but that foreign and mainland Chinese tourists were allowed to do so.

The news quickly spread on Facebook, where more than 13,000 people reportedly protested over the incident. The protests spilled over to the streets when more than a thousand people showed up outside D&G's flagship store decrying the infringement of their rights and the store's discriminatory practices, WSJ reported.

In response to the rally, which WSJ said forced the store to shut its doors at 3pm, D&G issued a press statement which said: ""We wish to underline that our company has not taken part in any action aiming at offending the Hong Kong public," as quoted by WSJ.

Harbour City, the shopping mall that the D&G store is located at, posted an apology on their Facebook page and said they will learn from the incident and take into serious consideration the feedback received.

The mall added that they will do everything they can to prevent similar incidents from occurring, and said they have reminded their tenants that the road along which the mall is located is a public space.

However, the statements have done little to diffuse local anger, at what analysts say stems from the frustrations locals feel over the increasingly significant presence of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong.

"Mainland mothers come to give birth, mainland buyers are buying the most luxurious properties in Hong Kong. The mainland is basically the backbone of our economy. Hong Kong people are afraid that their roles will be increasingly taken over by the mainlanders, but they have nowhere to express this fear," Chung Kim-wah, director of Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Centre for Social Policies Studies, told WSJ.

Mr Chung said the incident is a platform for the locals to express their frustrations over the mainland Chinese situation.

It was reported in local media outlets that the photo ban began when the D&G store was asked by powerful mainland Chinese customers to protect their privacy when shopping in the store, the Ministry of Toufu reported.

Online comments all over the net are reflecting the views being furiously discussed.

"In recent years, the extent of Hong Kong's increasing repulsion towards the mainland can rival that of Shanghaiers' discrimination and prejudice against non-locals," wrote Chinese netizen Zhang Wen Wen on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website.

Another netizen wrote: "In terms of bringing cash, how are mainland tourists different from those from Europe, USA and Japan? (Hong Kong people are) always thinking of themselves as one class higher than mainlanders and at the same time coveting mainlanders' purses."

Some netizens have even called on Harbour City to evict D&G from its premises, with Facebook user Vincent Lam posting on Harbour City's Facebook wall: "If you are really sorry, evict D&G to show it."

However, others say people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

"I think this issue has blown way out of proportion," wrote Felix Leung on Harbour City's Facebook page.