Picture: ROBERTO MACHADO/GETTY IMAGES
Picture: ROBERTO MACHADO/GETTY IMAGES

Shanghai/Hong Kong — Fast-fashion company Zara says store closures in Hong Kong on Monday were not related to anti-Beijing protests in the city, after speculation on Chinese social media that the retailer’s employees were supporting the demonstrators.

“Zara has never made any comments or undertaken any actions related to a strike in Hong Kong,” the company said in a post on its Weibo account on Monday.

“Zara does not back a strike and supports ‘one country, two systems’,” the post said, referring to a general strike called by unions as part of the protests, and China’s policy for governing Hong Kong.

The denial comes as multinational businesses become ensnared in the volatile conflict that has morphed from a protest against an extradition law into a broader challenge to Beijing’s authority in the city.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, faced heavy pushback from China after its staff joined the demonstrations, while HSBC Holdings to PWC have been the subject of online speculation over their positions on the protests, which have rocked the former British colony for almost three months.

Zara, owned by Spanish fashion conglomerate Inditex, seems to have been targeted after Chinese social media users noticed several of its Hong Kong stores were closed on Monday. Speculation spread that it was because staffers were taking part in the general strike.

A company representative who answered Zara’s Hong Kong hotline on Tuesday confirmed that all of its stores on Hong Kong island were shut on Monday, except one, but declined to give a reason for the closures. Most of Zara’s stores in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district were open on Monday, she said.

State-run tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that regardless of the reason for its store closures, Zara should not “broadcast any suspicious signals like this at a time when Chinese society is being troubled” by the incidents in Hong Kong.

A spokesperson for Inditex China did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bloomberg