Hong Kong v. Companies: America’s newest “Supreme Court” case

With protests rising and getting more violent, what should companies do?


Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Hong Kong Protesters refuse to give up and continue to protest. The situation gets worse every single day. Picture Credit to Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Jackson Kottman, Staff

They find themselves in difficult situations. Hong Kong seems to be turning inside out with protesters, as they’re bursting at the seams ever since Mar. 31st this year. People trash stores and protest against them, and as America is trying to intervene to “help,” what’s the best course of action?

Companies right now are trying to figure out the best route against, or with, the Hong Kong protesters against communism. As many take tip-toe steps towards their course of action, many choose a specific side. Many play it safe.

See this with the United States company, Vans shoes. CNBC reports that Vans “invited the public to vote for their favorite sneaker design from more than 100,000 submissions from around the world,” in what they are calling their “Vans Global Culture competition.” A Canada-based company named Naomiso won the vote before they were disqualified on Oct. 5th. Their submission included images of protesters and a nod to an earlier Hong Kong protest in 2014.

What the company had to say was that “based on the global competitions guidelines, Vans can confirm that a small number of artistic submissions have been removed. This decision was taken to uphold the purpose of custom culture.”

They aren’t the only ones who have to take a side. America’s Starbucks is another target of Hong Kong’s political dilemma.

In Hong Kong, Maxim’s group runs the Starbucks chain. The Financial Times reports that Annie Wu, the daughter of Maxim’s group founder “described the protesters as ‘rioters’ who did not represent Hong Kong,” during a United Nations visit on Sept. 11. Starbucks, wanting to remain neutral, came out and said, “We hereby state the Wu does not hold any position at the company, nor is she involved in any managerial decisions,” saying that Wu isn’t of much importance.

Even Apple, one of the biggest phone manufacturers, is having issues. They removed an app, HKmap.live, from the App Store which allowed protesters in Hong Kong to track the police. Apple wrote emails to employees, which the New York Times got ahold of, saying that, “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present.” This violates Apple’s rules and the local laws there.

This is of utmost importance. Decisions made here will have impacts for decades or more. The United States will be affected, China will be affected, and people will be affected. Think about the brands surrounding America, and what decision they will make. Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research, was interviewed by the Financial Times, and after everything he has seen so far, he had to say that, “You can’t duck your head and say you’re non-political. It’s a really dangerous time right now, for anyone.”