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However, the product was withdrawn entirely after Undercover posted a photo on it’s Instagram of posters in Hong Kong fighting against a proposed extradition bill.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

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TikTok Faces Billion Dollar Lawsuit in U.K. Over Children’s Data Collection Practices

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  • A former U.K. Children’s Commissioner is suing TikTok on behalf of a 12-year-old girl over concerns that the company mishandles the data of users under 13.
  • The lawsuit alleges that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and doesn’t clearly tell children or parents how much data it collects nor how it will be used.
  • The complaint seeks several billion pounds and has transformed into a class-action suit, with millions of children across the U.K. and E.U. eligible to take part.
  • TikTok denies all the claims against it, but if the plaintiffs are victorious, then the social media company could be forced to pay thousands of pounds to each affected child.

TikTok Mishandling Data

TikTok is currently facing a serious legal challenge in the United Kingdom over how it uses and collects children’s data.

The claim was filed by former English Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield on behalf of an anonymous 12-year-old girl, although it has since transformed into a class-action lawsuit for children in the U.K. and European Union.

The legal challenge is for several billion pounds, and if successful, could lead to each affected child in the U.K. and E.U. receiving a few thousand pounds.

Longfield claims that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and alleges that it takes children’s phone numbers, videos, exact location, and biometric data without sufficient warning. Particularly concerning for her are children under the age of twelve, who aren’t even supposed to use TikTok but do anyways.

Because of their age, they are supposed to get more legal protections over what’s done with their information, and that age range isn’t a small group of children. Longfield claims that 44% of children 8-12 use TikTok, which would roughly be 3.5 million children in the U.K. alone.

Those stats wouldn’t be too surprising, as according to a 2020 fact sheet published by Ofcom, the U.K.’s communication regulator, 50% of children aged 8 to 15 use TikTok.

Scott & Scoot, the law firm representing the case, added in a statement to the BBC that there is so little transparency for children and parents about what’s being done with the info that it’s “a severe breach of U.K. and EU data protection law.”

While every social media site collects large amounts of user data, Longfield targeted TikTok in particular because it had “excessive” data collection policies. Additionally, Longfield is annoyed at how easy it is for kids under 13 to use TikTok, saying, “Clearly, they know under-13s are using it, companies often say kids put the wrong age on but my view is that isn’t good enough.” 

“Knowing kids will do that, you need additional measures to provide more robust verification of children when they are online.”

Not The First Accusation

TikTok denied the accusations and said they “lack merit,” but the claims aren’t without precedent. The company is currently under investigation by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office for knowingly hosting the data of children under-13 when it merged with Music.ly.

The company was ordered to delete the info and set up an age verification system.

In 2019, the company was hit with a $5.7 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. for mishandling children’s data. It was also fined $155,000 in South Korea over similar issues.

The concerns over children’s data have also prompted many countries to consider various legislation to either enact or expand protections on such data. In the U.K., the Online Safety Bill is being considered by Parliament. Meanwhile, in the U.S., members from both parties in Congress have expressed interest in passing laws to curb social media companies that offer services aimed at people under 16.

Longfield’s lawsuit against TikTok is still in its early stages and what happens next remains to be seen.

See what others are saying: (TechXplore) (Reuters) (BBC)

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Netanyahu Loses Key Vote in Knesset, A First Step in Losing Power

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  • A coalition of anti-Benjamin Netanyahu parties gained control of a key committee that will set the legislative agenda as Israel tries to form a new government.
  • The major legislative victory could indicate that the opposition may have a serious chance of forming a majority government when asked to do so by President Reuven Rivlin, which will likely occur in two weeks if Netanyahu fails to do the same.
  • The pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs are all courting a group of right-wing and pro-Arab parties that have yet to declare a side.
  • Convincing all of the parties in either bloc to work together is increasingly difficult, as many have refused to do so if certain parties are brought into their coalitions, leaving Israel with the likely prospect of its fifth election in two years.

Major Roadblock

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost a key vote on Monday in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, that could possibly lead to his fall from power. 

Bibi, as he’s known, has managed to hold onto power throughout the last two years despite his coalition lacking enough votes to form and keep a government. The latest round of elections in late March once again saw Netayanhu lacking the votes to form a majority government. 

For the last few weeks, Netanyahu has been working to cobble together a coalition government. Two weeks ago, he was finally given a four-week deadline by President Reuven Rivlin.

While Netanyahu retains the title of Prime Minister, he doesn’t get to set the legislative agenda without a majority. The authority to set the agenda is granted to the powerful Arrangements Committee. The Prime Minister received his first major defeat in his efforts to set up a government when the anti-Netanyahu opposition managed to get a majority in the Knesset and gain a majority of the seats on the committee. 

Netanyahu made efforts to secure control of the committee, but like his previous attempts to form a government, he relied on the votes from the pro-Arab Islamist Ra’am party, which instead voted with the opposition. 

The move isn’t a complete shock, as small parties such as Ra’am and the right-wing Yamina party compose a central role in the situation by consistently playing both sides in an effort to get a better deal and more power.

Unclear Future

While Netanyahu has lost control of the Arrangements Committee, it’s unclear if that will translate into a long-term majority for the anti-Netanyahu coalition. 

Many of the wildcard players have issues with parties in both coalitions, with some members of each vowing to back out if the others join. 

For example, Netanyahu needs Ra’am to be able to form a government, but its status as a pro-Arab Islamist party puts it into conflict with a large pro-Jewish party in Netanyahu’s bloc, which vowed to back out if Ra’am was brought into the coalition. The opposition faces similar issues trying to get some of the right-wing parties on board to work with Ra’am, as well.

Netanyahu has two more weeks to try and form a government. If he can’t, President Rivlin will likely turn to the leaders in the opposition with a similar request. If no one is able to form a government, then Israel will head to its fifth election in two years.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Metro) (Jerusalem Post)

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New Zealand Considers Banning Cigarettes For People Born After 2004

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  • New Zealand announced a series of proposals that aim to outlaw smoking for the next generation with the hopes of being smoke-free by 2025.
  • Among the proposed provisions are plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and possibly prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004; effectively banning smoking for that generation.
  • Beyond that, the level of nicotine in products will likely be significantly reduced, setting a minimum price for tobacco and heavily restricting where it can be sold.
  • The proposals have proven to be popular as one in four New Zealand cancer deaths are tobacco-related, but some have criticized them as government overreach and worry a ban could lead to a bigger and more robust black market.

Smoke Free 2025

New Zealand announced sweeping new proposals on Thursday that would effectively phase out the use of tobacco products, a move that is in line with its hopes to become a smoke-free country by 2025.

Among a number of provisions, the proposals include plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and bar anyone born after 2004 from buying tobacco products. Such a ban would effectively end tobacco sales after a few decades. The government is also considering significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting filters, restricting locations where tobacco products can be purchased, and setting a steep minimum price for tobacco.

“We need a new approach.” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verral said when announcing the changes on Thursday. 

“About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach [a Smoke Free 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”

The proposals received a large welcome from public health organizations and local groups. Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, an advocate for smoke-free Maori communities, told The Guardian that the plan “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country.” 

The Cancer Society pointed out that these proposals would help combat health inequities in the nation, as tobacco stores were four times more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods, where smoking rates are highest.

Not Without Flaws

The proposals weren’t completely without controversy. There are concerns that a complete ban could bankrupt “dairy” store owners (the equivalent to a U.S. convenience store) who rely on tobacco sales to stay afloat. 

There are also concerns that prohibition largely doesn’t work, as has been seen in other nations with goods such as alcohol or marijuana. Many believe a  blanket ban on tobacco will increase the incentive to smuggle and sell the products on the black market. The government even acknowledged the issue in a document outlining Thursday’s proposals. 

“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” the document said.

Some are also concerned about how much the government is intervening in people’s lives.

“There’s a philosophical principle about adults being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason,” journalist Alex Braae wrote. 

The opposition ACT party also added that lowering nicotine content in tobacco products could lead to smokers smoking more, a particular concern as one-in-four cancer cases in New Zealand are tobacco-related.

See what others are saying: (Stuff) (Independent) (The Guardian)

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