Iconic jeweler Tiffany & Co. deleted a tweet showing an ad image of a Chinese model covering one eye after Chinese consumers accused the jeweler of supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The Model Sun Feifei showed off a Tiffany ring while covering her right eye with her hand in the ad. Critics viewed the pose as a deliberate imitation adopted by Hong Kong protesters after clashes with police left two women with eye injuries.
Demonstrators adopted “covering the right eye” gesture to express their anger toward the police after a young woman suffered a serious eye injury during clashes between protesters and police in August.
The Tiffany ad campaign shows the model covering one eye as “I spy with my little eye” to show off the company’s latest jewelry offerings. The ad reads, “Eye spy new Tiffany T True designs. Shop the new band rings – now with pave diamonds.”
Chinese consumers said the brand had been inconsiderate in posting the photos during a sensitive time.
‘I used to be your hardcore fan, but now I’m a Chinese first and foremost. I love my country and I won’t allow her to receive any defamation or violation,’ one person posted on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.
‘Whoever buys their products is blind,’ another post read.
A Tiffany’s spokesman claimed their ad was created in May – before the protests erupted – and was “in no way intended to be a political statement of any kind.”
“This campaign image, which was photographed in May 2019, was in no way intended to be a political statement of any kind,” Tiffany & Co said in a statement. “We regret that it may be perceived as such, and in turn have removed the image from our digital and social media channels and will discontinue its use effective immediately.”
Tiffany’s CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said in August that continuous business disruptions in Hong Kong had impacted the company, estimating six full selling days were lost due to unplanned store closures during the second quarter of this year. China is Tiffany’s third largest market, while Hong Kong is its fourth largest market.
Tiffany has 35 shops in mainland China, and plans to open branches of its Blue Box Cafe in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
The luxury jewelry is the latest US brand to buckle under the persuasive forces of the Chinese market, after the NBA has came under fire for expressing “regret” for a tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets in support of the Hong Kong protests.
Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, apologized for the deleted tweet that included an image of the activists’ rally cry: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” His support for the protests in the Chinese-ruled city angered Beijing, Chinese fans and the team’s business partners in a key NBA market.