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One-China T-shirt row engulfs Coach and Disney, a day after Versace apology

HONG KONG — American luxury brand Coach has become the latest international label to fall foul of Chinese consumers over the one-China principle as Beijing cracks down once again on overseas companies that fail to toe the Communist Party line.

American brand Coach moves quickly to quell online fury in China over T-shirt listing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate entities.

American brand Coach moves quickly to quell online fury in China over T-shirt listing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate entities.

HONG KONG — American luxury brand Coach has become the latest international label to fall foul of Chinese consumers over the one-China principle as Beijing cracks down once again on overseas companies that fail to toe the Communist Party line.

Coach issued a statement on Monday (Aug 12) saying it “respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” after it faced a backlash for a T-shirt design that lists Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan separately from China.

Images of the T-shirt, which is part of a Coach and Disney collection released in May 2018, circulated on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, on Monday morning.

The back of the T-shirt featured a list of cities, with their country names, such as “Tokyo, Japan” and “Milan, Italy”. Both Beijing and Shanghai were named as part of China, but Hong Kong and Macau were listed separately only as “Hong Kong” and “Macau”. Taipei was listed as “Taipei, Taiwan”.

China’s mainland online community criticised Coach and accused the label of supporting Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese independence. Online comments accused the brand of “disrespecting China’s national sovereignty” and demanded an apology.

Coach also came under fire for the store locator on its website which listed Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as three separate countries.

The brand’s ambassador in China, model Liu Wen, apologised on Monday for not being rigorous in her selection of brands to represent and said she would end her collaboration with Coach since its behaviour had “hurt the national feelings of the Chinese people” and must be “condemned seriously”.

Coach released a statement on Instagram and Weibo around noon on Monday, saying it “respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that it had pulled the product from all channels globally.

“In May 2018, we found a serious inaccuracy in the design of a few T-shirts … We also reviewed our entire assortment to ensure compliance, and have strengthened our internal product development process to avoid the occurrence of a similar issue in the future. We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it,” the statement said.

Coach also addressed the store location concerns in the statement, saying it had “taken immediate action to review and correct relevant website content”.

Italian fashion brand Versace apologised on Sunday for a range of tops that suggested Hong Kong and Macau were not part of China, but not before the issue racked up more than 1 billion views and discussion on Weibo.

Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily commented on the issue at around noon on Monday, saying both brands had made “stupid mistakes spontaneously” and adding that if foreign companies really had a “friendly and respectful” attitude to China, they would not be queuing up to create trouble on the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan issue.

“This is a matter of principle. Apart from condemning and blaming improper foreign companies, it is time for us to take some action,” the article ended.

Last year China demanded changes to the websites of 44 foreign airlines that had listed Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as countries. Nearly all complied by the July deadline. In August last year, Swedish furniture giant Ikea also came under fire for not listing Taiwan as part of China on its website.

Popular Chinese fashion blogger Zoe published an online poll at around 9am on Monday, asking people’s attitudes towards brands that “insulted China”. The poll quickly attracted more than 1 million respondents, with 70 per cent of them saying they would “never buy their products even if I have nothing to wear”. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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coach China Versace Hong Kong Macau Taiwan

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