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Dolce & Gabbana Photo Ban Protest refers to a series of flash-mob demonstrations that took place in early January 2012, when the Italian boutique’s Hong Kong flagship store banned pedestrians and window shoppers from taking photographs of the storefront display.
Discovery of the Ban
In early January 2012, an unflattering story about Dolce & Gabbana’s store began to circulate on various Hong Kong online forums, including HKGolden forum. The original poster complained that he and his girlfriend were stopped by the security guards when they were merely trying to take a photograph in front of the Dolce & Gabbana flagship store.
News Media Coverage
On January 5th, 2012, Apple Daily posted the first verified report about Dolce & Gabbana’s photo ban policy on its website. An NMA News video about the incident was also posted on YouTube, featuring a video clip of the Apple Daily reporter scuffling with the security guards while trying to shoot videos and take photos in front of the store.
In the video, one of the security guards assisting the D&G staff can be heard threatening the cameraman he will “break the camera.” The video quickly entered circulation on social networks and forums on the same day. Hours later, an article about the incident caught on video was posted via CNN’s iReport site.
On January 6th, 2012, Apple Daily’s affiliated tabloid, Sharp Daily, reported on the incident. According to the newspaper, some Harbour City security guards mentioned that mainlander tourists can take photos in front of the window, but Hong Kong residents were not allowed to take photos there. This double-standard explanation aroused a public rage against the Dolce & Gabbana, which was accused of discriminating against the Hong Kong residents.
Angry netizens took their complaints to Dolce & Gabbana’s official Facebook page, leaving hundreds of unflattering comments under their new year’s greeting status update. On the same day, Hong Kong artist Wong Ha Wai and photographer Chow Chung Ling took numerous photos at the storefront. The photos quickly circulated on the internet.
D&G Photography Flash Mob Protest
On January 5th, 2012, a Facebook page was set up for the protest and confirmed the details for the protest.
地點: D&G 尖沙咀店外
Venue: Outside D&G Tsim Sha Tsui branch
On January 8, 2012 in the afternoon, people started to gather at the Canton Road sidewalk in front of the D&G Tsim Sha Tsui branch. At 1pm, over a thousand people gathered at the sidewalks of Canton Road and took photos together, demanding for an official apology to the Hong Kong public.
Photographer Wong Ha Wai set up a counter for protesters to take photos with Wong. Legislator Paul Tse and Wan Chai District Council member Pamela Peck joined the protest for a while.A protester was dressed in the Iron Man costume, saying that the friends of justice should aid Hong Kong under such discrimination. The crowd blocked the doors of the D&G branch and at last the shop had to close at 3pm for the rest of the day. The crowd gathered for while later and dispersed peacefully at night.
In the following days, the weekend protest story in Hong Kong was picked up by various international news publishers, including Wall Street Journal, Telegraph, Forbes, News Week Japan and Italian newspaper Repubblica.
Apology from Harbour City Security Guards
On January 5th, 2012, Harbour City sent a letter to Apple Daily. In the letter Harbour City apologized to the affected citizens and said that they will strengthen the training of frontline staff in order to prevent such things from happening again. They also stated that they have reminded the tenants that the sidewalk on Canton Road is a part of the public area. On January 6th, 2012, Harbour City posted a status update on its Facebook page, mainly expressing apology to the public. On January 7th, 2012, Gid Event Security Limited, the company responsible for the D&G branch’s security guards, apologized for the guard’s overreaction through a report of Apple Daily.
Dolce & Gabbana’s Statement
After the protest, Dolce & Gabbana issued a statement to the press at night on January 8, 2012.
“Controversial statements reported in the Hong Kong press have not been made by Dolce & Gabbana nor its staff, and we strongly reject any racist or derogatory comments. It is regrettable that Dolce & Gabbana has been brought into this matter, but we wish to underline that our company has not taken part in any action aiming at offending the Hong Kong public.”
Human Flesh Search Engine: Charlian Cheung
Soon after the protest, a self-claimed Dolce & Gabbana flagship store staff named Charlian Cheung posted two status updates supporting the boutique and expressed anger to the flash mob.
Some staffs have to go back to their workplace early in the morning and pick up the money offerings to the dead, just because of a bunch of ignorant people’s shameless behavior! You guys are heartless and the dogs in the manger! We, the staff of DG Canton Road, are united! Come at us, Hongkongers!
As a DG Canton Road staff, I’m disappointed that I can’t go to work today! You guys have to fight against the brain-damaged! My spirit is always with you guys!
The herd mentality of the ignorant Hongkongers is terrible! Troublemakers, we are all workers! We are all humans!
After the status was posted, the Human Flesh Search Engine of HKGolden Forum doxed much of her information to the public. Charlian Cheung’s Facebook account was hence deleted. Later Charlian Cheung’s husband, Mr Cheung, confirmed with Hong Kong Economic Times that his wife is a staff of the Dolce & Gabbana flagship store. Meanwhile, the hateful messages against Charlian have been continuously posted on social networks and forums. On January 9, 2012, Charlian Cheung reopened her facebook account and posted an apology.
Hello everyone! I deliver my most sincere apology to you for the speech I posted on facebook. Please do not affect my family and friends for my speech, as I did not know that my private expression will cause a series of storms in a teacup. I am really sorry.
Friday the 13th Protest
On Friday, January 13, 2012, also called a Black Friday, about a hundred people gathered at the store and demanded for an apology. The flagship store was closed after the protesters gathered. Protester placed dog food and placed a circular object between the door handles of the shop, to allude the negative nickname of the brand, “DoG”. A protester posted a banner onto the doors of the store, saying that only an apology can appease the outraged public.
The Third Protest
On January 15, 2012, a week after the first protest, few dozens of people took photos and protested at the store again. Bauhinia Heroine showed up and supported the protest. The store was closed again because of the protest. Similar to the previous protest, the demand was an official apology to the Hong Kong public.
On January 16, 2012, Apple Daily received a letter from Hong Kong Police, saying that they have received a report of quarrels between some foreigners, some security guards and some photographers, and some of the behavior might be criminal acts. The case was handed to the District Crime Squad of Yau Tsim and the Police invited the Apple Daily cameraman to provide information for further investigation. A lawyer stated that threatening others of breaking their camera is equal to committing the crime of intimidation, and there might be a chance of being accused of common assault because of hitting the camera.