International cosmetic giant Lancôme cancelled a mini-concert that was to be performed by outspoken pro-democracy Canto-pop celebrity Denise Ho Wan-see on Sunday night. The company said that it was due to “possible safety reasons”. Prior to the announcement, Chinese netizens called for a boycott of Lancôme, as well as popular mouthwash brand Listerine, for allowing Ho to represent their products.

Lancôme also issued a statement saying that “Hong Kong actress Denise Ho is not a spokesperson of LANCÔME” on Sunday afternoon before the cancellation.

Lancôme statement. Photo: Lancôme via Facebook.

The boycott campaign was sparked by Chinese state media outlet Global Times, which posted a Weibo post on Saturday morning saying that according to a source, Listerine and Lancôme had hired Denise Ho, who was “pro-Hong Kong independence” and “pro-Tibetan independence,” for promotional events.

“You pick your own spokesperson, get out of the Chinese market crying yourself,” read one of the most liked comments on the Weibo post.

Global Times’ Weibo about Denise Ho. Photo: Weibo screenshot.

Lancôme’s announcement of the decision to cancel the event has attracted 17,000 “angry” likes as of Monday morning. Netizen Winnie Leung commented on the post, saying “The event was cancelled due to safety issues? Are you kidding me?… Being a marketing professional, I would say this incidence is definitely a good example of what we called ‘PR disaster’.”

Listerine continued with Ho as their official “face” and some commentators noted the difference in approach between the two firms. “Grateful thanks to you guys. You are not like the other brand, which has no courage, no guts and no stance,” wrote Joel Chow.

Ho told Ming Pao through her assistant on Sunday that as she was not in Hong Kong she had not understood the beginnings and ends of the incident. She will release a statement on Monday.

Denise Ho. File photo: Wikicommons.

The concert was to be performed on June 19 and details of the event remain on Ho’s personal page on Facebook as of Monday morning.

Ho was a prominent supporter of the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014. She was allegedly banned from performing in the mainland after voicing support for protesters in the movement.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.