Skating brand Vans is facing boycott calls after removing a shoe alluding to protests in Hong Kong from a sneaker design competition.
The design, featuring a red bauhinia, the flower on Hong Kong’s flag, and one of the yellow umbrellas synonymous with the city’s 2014 pro-democracy protest, was removed from the Vans Custom Culture competition on Saturday.
Vans said in a Facebook post that a “small number of artistic submissions have been removed … to uphold the purpose of Custom Culture.”
“As a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition,” the company added, without referring specifically to the protest-themed design.
The decision quickly drew condemnation from supporters of the protests on social media, who shared their frustration with the hashtag #boycottVans.
Thousands of protesters have demonstrated in Hong Kong for months. Begun in opposition to a bill allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, the protests have evolved into a broad pro-democracy movement.
The semi-autonomous city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, withdrew the extradition bill last month, but protests have continued and even expanded.