Shares in Vitasoy fell sharply on Monday after the Hong Kong beverage company came under fire from Chinese netizens for an unauthorised internal memo which expressed condolences to the family of an employee who killed himself after stabbing a policeman.
The company has disowned the memo regarding the death of Leung Kin-fai and said it may take legal action against the employee responsible for issuing it.
Shares were down to HK$26 on Monday morning, the lowest since April 2020.
Vitasoy, in a statement on Weibo on Friday, said it “fully supported” a probe under the national security law into the incident, adding it was committed to supporting the stability, prosperity and development of Hong Kong and mainland China.
Netizens had accused the company of “supporting a terrorist,” following the memo which described Leung’s death as “unfortunate” and said the company had expressed “deepest condolences” to Leung’s family.
In a second Weibo statement on Friday, Vitasoy said the language of its initial internal memo was highly inappropriate and not approved by the firm. It said it would conduct an investigation and potentially take legal measures against the employee.
Leung died on Thursday after stabbing himself in the chest following his attack in the busy Causeway Bay shopping district on a police officer, on the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
Top security officials have described the stabbing, which seriously injured the officer, as “domestic terrorism” and have hit out at people trying to commemorate the death of the attacker at the scene of the incident.
Celebrity collaborations terminated
On Friday, prior to Vitasoy’s statement, Chinese actor Gong Jun announced on Weibo that he had decided to terminate all collaboration with the brand.
“‘Our company and Mr Gong Jun resolutely boycott all forms of violence, terrorist radical acts. [We] resolutely safeguard social stability and the interest of our motherland, and insist on having zero tolerance towards any violence and behaviour supporting violence,“ a statement from Gong’s firm read.
Another Chinese actor Ren Jialun also announced he was cutting ties with Vitasoy. Ren said he “resolutely opposed” speech and behaviour that harmed China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The violent incident that happened recently in Hong Kong Causeway Bay was a violent crime that seriously violated the country’s laws,” Ren’s company wrote.
“Our company and Mr Ren Jialun resolutely oppose any speech and behaviour that breach the country’s laws, damage the unity and stability of the country and harm the country’s interests.”