While the city of Hong Kong hopes to celebrate with optimism the next edition of the Centrestage fashion event, the riots hanging over the region for 13 weeks have placed the Spanish Zara in the center of all eyes. After the harsh protests of this weekend and the day of student strikes last Monday.
It all began after the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao asked through a headline whether Monday's closure of four of Zara's stores in central Hong Kong responded to a demonstration of support for the protests and the day of strike called by different student organizations. A question that was quickly reproduced by Chinese media and users of social networks like Weibo. Under the hashtag "Zara statement" they invited the Spanish company, the main firm of the giant Inditex, to pronounce itself-at the same time they turned the mentioned hashtag into one of the most popular topics of the Chinese network, with more than 170 million interactions.
Finally, and in a very unusual movement within the Spanish company, Zara was pushed to issue a statement through the Weibo network itself, in which it claimed to support the policy of "one country, two systems" under which China currently governs Hong Kong. As well as "never" having been related to the protests, nor having made any statement about the demonstrations and strikes.
Sources close to the Spanish group would have assured, as reported by media such as Reuters, that some Zara stores in Hong Kong had been forced to delay the opening of establishments last Monday. Because of the problems of mobility and public transport that their employees would have suffered as a result of the protests. But all Zara stores in the region finally opened their doors that day.
This is not the first time the Beijing government has used social networks and the media to pressure its people against certain international firms and groups. A measure by which it seeks a public declaration of support for its sovereignty over the Hong Kong region.
Just a few weeks ago, firms and groups such as Versace, Givenchy and Coach were accused of violating China's territorial sovereignty because of T-shirts that included Taiwan. Another territory of the regions claimed by Beijing that is not an independent country from China. This fact also splashed over Zara last year, after the territory appeared independently in a country drop-down on its China website.
Inditex currently has 31 stores in Hong Kong, 14 Zara stores, 6 Pull&Bear, 5 Bershka, 2 Massimo Dutti, 2 Oysho stores and 2 Zara Home stores. Meanwhile, in mainland China, the Spanish group has 580 stores, of which 178 are from its Zara chain, 88 from Oysho, 87 from Massimo Dutti, 67 from Pull&Bear, 85 from Bershka, 44 from Stradivarius, 1 store from Uterqüe and 50 Zara Home stores.
This article was originally written for FashionUnited.ES, edited and translated.
Photos: Inditex, official Facebook page