Amazon latest retailer under fire from China over T-shirts

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Amazon is facing backlash over T-shirts sporting Hong Kong slogans. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Amazon (AMZN) is the latest company to face a backlash from Chinese users after it was found to be selling T-shirts with slogans supportive of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Many Chinese internet users found T-shirts on the online retailer with slogans like “Hong Kong is Not China” and “Free Hong Kong, Democracy Now,” according to the Global Times tabloid, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official organ of the Chinese communist party.

With over 100 million views, “Amazon T-Shirts” quickly became one of the top trending topics on Weibo, a social networking platform similar to Twitter, the Global Times said.

READ MORE: China nationalists hack pro-Hong Kong protest T-shirt listings

Users even found a way to hijack the product images by changing them into Chinese flags.

T-shirts seen as supportive of the Hong Kong protest movement are being sold on Amazon. Photo: Amazon screenshot

The T-shirts, the newspaper said, are “supporting violent protests in Hong Kong and their secessionist movement, which many view as not only offensive but also in violation of China's sovereignty.”

Particular uproar is centred around the suggestion that Hong Kong is independent from China.

While it has a significant degree of autonomy and is a former European colony, Hong Kong is still regarded as part of China.

READ MORE: Versace apologises for a T-shirt that triggered criticism from China

“Amazon, you can leave China! You don't even need to apologise this time,” one user on Weibo said, according to the Global Times.

Other retailers have also recently come under fire for controversial T-shirts related to China.

Earlier this week, luxury clothing house Versace apologised for a T-shirt that was criticised for identifying Hong Kong and Macau, another autonomous region, as countries independent of China.

Activists in Hong Kong have occupied public locations across the special administrative region for more than 10 weeks in protest of what they deem to be a weakening of civil liberties.

The protests were sparked by a proposed extradition bill that protestors say could place Hong Kong citizens under Chinese jurisdiction.

That would likely undermine the “one country, two systems” principle, which sees Hong Kong operate under a different economic and administrative system from mainland China.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

In a rare retreat, the e-commerce behemoth said in April that it would close its Chinese marketplace, meaning local sellers can no longer sell goods on its platform.

Customers in mainland China can still purchase goods from overseas sellers, however.