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Nike Pulls New Shoe Line in China Over Designer’s Support for Hong Kong Protests

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  • Nike canceled the launch of a new line of shoes in China after the Japanese designer of the line posted on Instagram supporting protests in Hong Kong against a proposed extradition bill.
  • The incident sheds light on the dilemma multinational companies face between needing to comply with China’s demands to sell to Chinese markets, but also not wanting to be perceived negatively by more liberal countries.
  • Last year, Mercedes-Benz and the Gap both faced similar experiences, prompting them to apologize to Chinese consumers.

Undercover x Nike Collaboration 

Nike pulled the sale of a new line of shoes in China after the Japanese designer of the line publically supported the protests in Hong Kong on social media, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

Nike and the Japanese brand Undercover, lead by the designer Jun Takahashi, intended on releasing the limited shoe line this month.

However, the product was withdrawn entirely after Undercover posted a photo on it’s Instagram of posters in Hong Kong fighting against a proposed extradition bill.

The post included the text “no extradition to China.”

Source: Campaign US

Undercover later deleted the post after receiving backlash from Chinese Instagram users, who use VPNs to access Instagram, which is blocked in China. After deleting the post, Undercover reportedly said it said was an “individual opinion” that had been posted by mistake.

YYSports, Nike’s retail partner in China and one of the country’s largest retailers, said they were given “urgent notice” from Nike to stop the launch of the new line. Other Chinese retailers also removed the shoes from sale without explanation.

One online vendor said it withdrew all Undercover brand products because of “special reasons,” but did not give details.

China and Multinational Retailers

A person described as being “close to” Nike told the Financial Times that the event with Undercover probably will not hurt Nike’s sales or revenues in China, as the situation was dealt with quickly and the shoes were designed as a limited-edition collector’s item rather than a mass-marketed product.

Additionally, while the line did not launch in China, it did launch globally on June 21.

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#NIKE x #UNDERCOVER Daybreak sneakers in Black and Green will be released ‪on June 21th (Fri)‬ globally.  NOTE: Purchasing at UNDERCOVER Aoyama is only possible through an advance online lottery. Application period is between ‪June 18th (Tue) 12:00‬ ~ 20:00. Please check the UNDERCOVER website for details (‪undercoverism.com/projects‬)   NIKE x UNDERCOVER Daybreak を‪6月21日(金)‬より販売いたします。  国内Daybreak販売店舗:UNDERCOVER 青山、新宿伊勢丹MENS、阪急MENS東京、GINZA SIX, 阪急MENS大阪、阪急うめだ本館、LUCUA1100、岩田屋本店、仙台、金沢、名古屋、京都店及び、NIKE SNKERS、NIKELAB MA5、DSM GINZA  UNDERCOVER 青山店での購入については、事前にオンライン入場抽選を実施しますので、発売日に店頭にて購入をご希望の方は、アンダーカバーのウェブサイト‪undercoverism.com/projects‬(携帯からはBioにあるリンクより)にて詳細をご確認のうえ、抽選応募フォームよりご応募ください。ご応募受付期間 : ‪2019年6月18日(火) 12:00 ~ 20:00‬  #アンダーカバー #ナイキ

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Regardless, the incident shines a light on the double-edged sword that is selling retail products to Chinese markets. 

On one hand, China is a huge market and brings in a ton of revenue for multinational retailers like Nike. In Fiscal Year 2018, Nike reported more than $5.1 billion in revenue from greater China alone.

On the other hand, if Nike adjusts to the political needs of China, it risks being perceived by more liberal countries as bending to China’s authoritarian requests. This is especially difficult for Nike, which markets itself as an advocate for social causes.

However, it is not only Nike that has had these issues with selling products in China. 

Last year, Mercedes-Benz apologized to Chinese consumers after they posted on their official Instagram account and used a quote from the Dalai Lama, who the Chinese government believes is a dangerous separatist. 

Gap also apologized to Chinese consumers last year after a post on a Chinese social media site showed T-shirts with a map of China that did not include Taiwan, South Tibet, and the South China Sea, all of which China considers as territories that belong to them, but are disputed.

Protests in Hong Kong

Meanwhile, the protests over the proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong have continued intermittently for the last few weeks.

The bill would let the government detain people accused of committing certain crimes and send them to countries or territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with, including mainland China.

The people of Hong Kong oppose the bill because they are concerned China could use the law to target political activists and dissidents who are critical of the Chinese government.

On June 15, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said she would suspend the bill indefinitely, but not fully withdraw it. The next day, the people of Hong Kong staged an even bigger protest with an estimated 2 million people in attendance.

Since then, the people have still continued to demonstrate, taking to the streets, surrounding and entering government buildings. 

On Tuesday, hundreds of people demonstrated at foreign governments’ consulates in Hong Kong, to call on foreign leaders to address their concerns at the upcoming G20 summit in Japan.

See what others are saying: (The Financial Times) (Business Insider) (CNBC

International

U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.

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The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.


New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle

A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.

Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.

In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.

The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.

Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.

However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased. 

In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.

High Court Ruling

The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.” 

“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.

If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.

Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.

U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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International

Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe

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The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.


More Information About Omicron

Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.

One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.

Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa —  where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.

Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.

In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.

Studies on Vaccine Efficacy 

Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.

According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses. 

By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.

Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.

Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)

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International

40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox

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The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.


Camels Booted From Beauty Contest

More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.

The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.

However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”

Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.

An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.

“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”

While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.

In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Guardian) (ABC News)

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