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13 July 2024

Starbucks becomes latest target of Hong Kong protester rage

Photo: AFP


Starbucks has emerged as the latest brand to fall foul of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters after a family member of the local restaurant chain that owns the local franchise spoke out against demonstrators.

Multiple branches were covered with graffiti over the weekend as the city convulsed with some of the most intense clashes between hardcore protesters and riot police in weeks.

One cafe in the district of Wanchai was daubed with slogans saying "boycott" as well as insults to the police and Maxim's Caterers, a major Hong Kong restaurant chain that runs Starbucks outlets in the city.

The vandalism illustrates the huge pressures on international brands as Hong Kong is shaken by its worst political unrest in decades.

Beijing is piling pressure on businesses to publicly condemn the protests.

Those that do risk a protester backlash, but staying silent risks financial punishment on the mainland, a far more lucrative market.

Yoshinoya, a popular noodle chain, and Genki Sushi  have been repeatedly tagged with graffiti along with Bank of China branches.

Brands deemed to be sympathetic to protesters have also had a torrid time and faced boycotts on the mainland.

Authorities in China tore into Cathay Pacific after staff joined protests, forcing the company to go through stricter regulatory checks.

The moves led to major staff changes on Cathay's board, including the resignation of its CEO, as well as multiple staff being fired for expressing pro-democracy sentiments, something some employees have described as a "purge".