More fun and games in Causeway Bay
There were more fun and games outside the Digital Crown Holdings HK (DCHL) offices in Causeway Bay yesterday. In a second day of protests against the Hong Kong company, a crowd of angry mainlanders threatened to storm the premises during the midday demonstration, forcing DCHL to close its doors in order to avoid a repeat of the initial five day protest in October, in which protestors mounted the building’s roof and refused to back down until their demands had been met.
Though there were no high-rise antics this time, police with anti-riot gear were called in after minor scuffles broke out, with two of the protestors threatening to throw bottles of soy sauce at the glass-fronted building. Three arrests were made and two protestors were taken to hospital with minor injuries, but for the most part, the protests were relatively calm.
Protestors threw hell money at DCHL staff peering warily out from behind the glass doors (a particularly offensive gesture in Chinese culture since the money is generally only used in offerings for the dead) while police kept a wary eye on anybody trying to make their feelings known to those staff on a more intimate level.
As with previous protests, there is anger amongst the protesters at DCHL’s perceived shady business practices. Many of them had bought more than 60,000 RMB of the company’s products in order to qualify as distributors, whereupon commission and bonuses were promised if they referred other potential distributors to the program. But the protestors claim not only that the rewards which they had been promised never materialised, but the goods they bought could not be sold on.
Protestors are also angry that DCHL, despite promising to draw up plans to deal with refund requests in the wake of last year’s protests, have so far failed to give any idea of when those refunds would be forthcoming or how much of the protestors’ money they would be willing to return.
All of this is very intriguing, but I think what is most interesting about this continuing saga, is the Hong Kong public’s reaction to it. After the first wave of protests at the end of October, for instance, comments on the SCMP website largely followed a similar theme:
“This kind of multilevel marketing is illegal in mainland. Didn’t these people stop to think why? … They should just pay for their stupidity and learn their lesson.”
“These idiot mainlanders deserved to be fleeced; they were blinded by greed and should have known better.”
“If it’s too good to be true, they don’t deserve to be compensated and I hope they can learn from this.”
And so on, and so forth. The comments this time round were a little more level-headed, with people more of the opinion that the protestors “need to be more pragmatic and limit their demonstrations. They should not be provoking the others.” While ‘ohyeahar’ reckons that “while DCHL is probably in the wrong here, the protesters are just being silly by going about it with violence. If they have evidence to use against DCHL, then take them to court. Yelling slogans and hurling bottles won’t accomplish anything other than make you look barbaric.’
A fair point well made, if they can afford it. Failing that, just as everyone has the right not to be exploited by shady business practices, I think everyone likewise has the right – or should have the right – to lawfully protest against those practices should they feel suitably aggrieved. And to be honest, Hong Kongers telling people not to protest, is like Kim Jong-un telling people to stop being mean.
It remains to be seen whether DCHL is indeed operating an illegal scheme. Their practices are apparently legal according to Hong Kong law. But since Hong Kong is one of only a handful of places in the world in which such marketing tactics are still considered an acceptable business model, the protestors do seem to have a legitimate case. The fact that DCHL is prepared to discuss, if not yet make a concrete offer of compensation, seems furthermore to point to a conscience that isn’t exactly as crystal clear as they claim their own miracle scheme to be.
Related Post: Check out the photos from October’s roof-top demonstration and read more about the DCHL protests.