Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Retail Chain to Exit City in 2022
(Bloomberg) -- A Hong Kong retail chain that backed the pro-democracy movement will exit the city, citing a pressure campaign by the mainland and local authorities amid a broad crackdown on dissent in the former British colony.
Clothing store Chickeeduck will close its Hong Kong operations in the second half of 2022, after more than three decades in the city, it said in a statement Thursday. Founder and chief executive officer Herbert Chow said the company needed time to give notice on its leases and sell existing stock, and would look to online opportunities.
The company said that after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 it had experienced “a lot of disturbance.” China’s Public Security Bureau had stopped mainland factories making its products, the company said in its statement.
“The factory (owner) told me that he got threatened that his kid may face difficulty to get into a school,” said Chow, adding that an Indonesian factory the chain started working with recently had “someone tell them we are a very dangerous company.”
Chickeeduck, which has six locations in the city according to its website, also said it had faced problems renewing leases on its Hong Kong stores and overbearing scrutiny from government departments. “Various staff even received malicious calls on a daily basis, and some were followed and smeared,” the statement added.
A representative from the Hong Kong government and the Hong Kong Police Force didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. China’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment that was sent outside of working hours.
Chickeeduck had several high-profile clashes with the government over its support for the 2019 pro-democracy movement that rocked the city, and broader opposition to the Chinese government. Earlier this week, city officials demanded it remove a statue of the late Nobel prize winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo from one of its stores, while in May a branch that carried a once-popular but now-banned slogan was cordoned off by police.
Hong Kong authorities have cracked down on freedom of speech under the national security law, which bans secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries. Some 155 pro-democracy activists, former opposition lawmakers, journalists and academics have been arrested under the legislation. Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has been forced to close, and non-governmental organization Amnesty International announced it will shut its Hong Kong operations citing fear of “serious reprisals” under the law.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has credited the legislation with bringing stability back to the Asian city.
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