Lancome cancels concert after Chinese online backlash

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Singer Denise Ho is being arrested and escorted by police officers during the clearance of Occupy Central Pro-democracy camp in AdmiraltyImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The popstar was among the first celebrities to be arrested as part of Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella Movement

French cosmetics giant Lancome has cancelled a promotional concert in Hong Kong after an online backlash in mainland China over an artist apparently set to perform.

Denise Ho, a well-known pro-democracy activist, said she had been due to sing at the sold-out concert on 19 June.

The news sparked calls for a boycott of Lancome in Chinese online forums.

Lancome cancelled the event citing "possible safety reasons" without clarifying if she was set to perform.

Lancome also added, in a post on Facebook, that Ms Ho, 39, was not the brand's spokesperson.

Ms Ho expressed her "deep regret" over the cancellation in a statement later on Monday, and asked for a public explanation from Lancome about the decision.

"Lancome is an international brand. Of course, even an international brand has to fall to its knees in the face of this kind of bullying. We have to seriously face up to this problem," she said.

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
Lancome posted on Facebook late on Sunday that the event would be cancelled due to "possible safety reasons"

Ms Ho was one of the first celebrities to be arrested for participating in the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014, when thousands of people occupied parts of Hong Kong to demand fully free elections.

The pro-democracy protest was seen by observers as the biggest challenge to Beijing's rule since Hong Kong was returned to China by the British in 1997.

She had formerly posted pictures of herself with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, calling him a "loving grandfather".

Lancome announced the concert last week and Ms Ho said on her Facebook page that she would be performing.

Then on Saturday, Beijing newspaper Global Times questioned her appearance, calling her a supporter of Hong Kong independence in a post on micro-blogging site Weibo.

Ms Ho has not publicly expressed her support for independence for the territory from China.

The Global Times post, as well as Lancome's Facebook post, drew an intense reaction from netizens with some condemning the move and other calling for a boycott of Lancome products.

One user said the brand could not both "earn Chinese money" and have "such a person" endorse the brand.