Dolce & Gabbana and Chinese corruption

The biggest story over the past three weeks in Hong Kong has been the alleged ban by Dolce & Gabbana of people taking photos of their store front from the street.


There have been daily protests in the street, and this story has been in the papers every day for 3 weeks. Local residents have been railing against discrimination; they claim that high-end shops don’t want their custom and favour mainland Chinese.  [NB They are probably right, but it’s these mainlanders that are keeping Hong Kong in positive growth.] The Photographers Union have joined in declaring their right to take any photo in a public situation. And tourists are probably bemused by being told they can’t take photos.

The story in the (fiercely independent) English Hong Kong Newspapers is one of discrimination against Hong Kongers (of which I am of course a new member).  You may be disappointed that – although I was mildly disappointed that I couldn’t find a single pair of Uggs for Nancy’s birthday (because they had all been bought up by mainlanders) – I am not planning an uprising, sit down disputes or “I have a dream”-like speeches.

One of the reasons for this is that the story behind this story is a good deal more interesting. The original complaint apparently came from a mainlander who complained to a guard about people taking photos. His rationale for this was probably the existence of an excellent website that showed only a picture of a Chinese Official and their watch. This website was created by Huaguoshan Zongshuji” (花果山总书记, literally, General Secretary of Huaguo Mountain) who has a deep, male-like interest in the taxonomy of high-end watches. The point of this website is to juxtapose the picture of the chinese official, the cost of his/her watch and their annual salary. Invariably, it shows that the cost of an official’s watch is higher than their annual salary. This website has been rendered inaccessible by Chinese authorities, before appearing again in another guise.  This is a pity; I would have thought it would be an excellent source of data for Chinese authorities looking to stamp out corruption. Nevertheless, I can see that it is embarrassing for Chinese Authorities.



The PR people at Dolce & Gabbana have handled the story badly. Their original (truthful) line was that they hadn’t complained. Unfortunately, the story was that they were discriminating against Hong Kongers (probably true). Two weeks later, they did apologise but – as is the way with this type of story – it was a lukewarm apology, the type that comes after Head Office has put pressure on them to stop the daily negative headlines.

You may ask why people want to take a photo of the high-end stores. The reason is that outside each of these shops there are queues of people waiting to be allowed to enter and guards preventing their entry until another customer exited.

And why do mainlanders come to Hong Kong for their shopping in the first place? First, the Chinese like the western brands and are now apparently sometimes abusive to those wearing fake gear. Second, the Chinese don’t trust products sold in China, even branded ones from branded stores.

The ultimate irony is that the Chinese go to shop in Hong Kong to buy branded western goods made in China (rather than fake goods, also made in China).

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville on January 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    ‘Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow’ is the philosophy of the Chinese factory which makes Ipads – so a UK paper says today.

    It would seem that whether the product is genuine or fake then the work practices in Chinese factories leave much to be desired and doubtful if the actual worker can afford the item he makes.

    What I want to know is how do they stop people taking the pictures? With the uniquity of mobile phoes with camera functions I would have thought it would require little espionage skill to take a picture whilst pretending to talk on the phone.

    If Hong Kongers cannnot take pictures, get yout mother to do so before she leaves. It might be saleable on ebay!


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