Hong Kong Activist Urges Starbucks to Cancel Local Franchise

(Bloomberg) -- Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong joined calls for Starbucks Corp. to cancel its franchise with one of the city’s biggest restaurant companies after a member of the founder’s family likened anti-Beijing protests to riots and voiced support for local authorities.

In a tweet early Friday, Wong asked for the franchise of Maxim’s Caterers Ltd., which runs the Starbucks outlets in the city, to be terminated “immediately.” Wong, who first rose to international prominence during the 2014 Hong Kong democracy protests, included a link to a petition calling for Maxim’s to lose its Starbucks license. It has garnered more than 12,000 signatures.

The call by Wong, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, shows how corporations worldwide are being dragged into the standoff between pro-democracy demonstrators and Hong Kong authorities. From fast-fashion giant Zara to Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., brands and companies are being targeted if they’re seen to be supporting either side in the dispute.

Zara this month denied speculation on Chinese social media that its employees were supporting anti-Beijing protests that disrupted some of its store operations.

The attack on Maxim’s grew following comments by Annie Wu, daughter of Maxim’s founder, at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this month. Speaking to media after the speech, Wu compared violent protests in the city to “riots” and said she wanted “the true story” of the standoff to be heard.

“The international media has been very biased,” she said at the time. “They ignore the silent majority in Hong Kong.” Wu expressed “full support” for Hong Kong’s government and police force.

A representative for Starbucks declined to comment. Maxim’s had no immediate comment, but previously sought to distance itself from Wu. “Ms. Wu is not employed in any position or capacity at the company,” Maxim’s said in a statement on Sept. 25.

Maxim’s, which introduced Starbucks to Hong Kong in 2000, also has city franchises for Genki Sushi, a Japanese restaurant chain.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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