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Hong Kong Protesters Boycott Alibaba’s Big ‘Singles Day’ Sale

Held yearly on November 11, “Singles Day” is like China’s version of Black Friday.

by Aditya Mirchandani
12 November 2019, 5:16am

A screen shows the gross merchandise volume, a measure of sales, after 12 minutes 49 seconds of Singles Day sales, as it reaches about $7,147,554,107 in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province early on November 11, 2019.
AFP

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

Pro-democracy protests against the Chinese government continue in Hong Kong, and some dedicated protesters are even sitting out the region’s biggest online sale to show support for their cause.

Today, November 11, marks the annual Singles Day sale. The event originated in China in the 90s, as a celebration for those not in relationships, but has become a big commercial event throughout Asia.

Small brands and big online stores slash prices off their products, not unlike the United States' Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This includes Asian e-commerce giants like Shoppee, JD.com, and Alibaba's Lazada and Taobao.

Some Hong Kongers, however, are boycotting sales by Chinese-run businesses like Alibaba, which is perceived to be pro-Beijing, the South China Morning Post, reported.

One Hong Konger identified as Leung told the SCMP that she stopped shopping at Taobao — the world’s biggest e-commerce website — when the Hong Kong protests started to gain momentum.

“If we want to cause collateral damage and business losses, Taobao is a channel for us to clearly express our demands,” she said.

This is a stark reminder that tensions are still high between Hong Kong and the mainland.

“It’s a way of showing our stance,” said Yami Leung Ching-yan.

This isn’t the first time protesters took action against Chinese brands. In October, many pro-Beijing establishments were vandalised during demonstrations by anti-government protestors, who stormed Chinese banks and businesses, spray-painting slogans, destroying shop fronts, and smashing ATMs.

As passionate as protesters are, they're just a small part of Asia, a region that has mostly embraced the annual sale. The boycott isn’t expected to make a difference to the overall revenue hauled in by Alibaba. Consumers in China reportedly spent over $22.5 billion (158 billion yuan) in just nine hours of Taobao launching the sale.

During Singles Day in 2018, consumers spent a whopping $30 billion on the site, 4,000 times more than when the event first launched in 2009.

Culturally, it’s also a lot bigger.

In an effort to raise awareness and capitalise on its already large fan base, Alibaba invited Taylor Swift to perform at Taobao's opening gala this year. Swift’s album Lover did better in China than the U.S., a testament to the country’s purchasing power. Kim Kardashian also made an appearance in a Livestream on the website, promoting her new fragrance to an audience of 12 million fans.

Celebrities that have previously appeared in the Taobao Singles Day opening gala include Pharrell Williams, Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, and Scarlett Johansen.

This year Alibaba, is set to smash it’s own online sales records, with forecasted sales figures of up to $37 billion.

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