A sign on the store doors of Lancome at Cityplaza in Hong Kong advises customers that the store has been temporarily closed
Amanda Calvo
June 8, 2016 6:47 AM EDT

Top French cosmetic brand Lancôme has shuttered several stores for the day in Hong Kong in the face of a growing backlash against its decision to scrap a promotional concert featuring a local singer who is also a prominent advocate of democracy.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Times Square mall in Hong Kong Wednesday afternoon local time to protest Lancôme’s cancelation of a performance by musician Denise Ho, described Monday by the Chinese state-linked Global Times as a “controversial” advocate of greater political freedom for Hong Kong and Tibet

Lancôme promptly released a statement on Facebook stipulating that “Denise Ho is not a spokesperson of Lancôme. We are sorry for the confusion caused.”

Ho countered on her Facebook page, demanding that Lancome’s French head office explain itself. “Freedom, justice, and equality have always been the pursuits of Hong Kong people. If we are punished for these pursuits, it is no longer just about me, but a serious corruption of our values. When even such a global brand as Lancôme has to kneel before this kind of oppression, we cannot but take this problem very seriously.”

Others are less surprised, given that China is a much bigger market for the brand than Hong Kong. “This is the Chinese government exercising their economic might,” Avery Ng, chairman of the League of Social Democrats told TIME.

A French petition is circulating online with over 4,600 signatures demanding the cosmetic giant reverse its decision. The brand is also facing calls for a consumer boycott in Hong Kong.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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