Vancl T-Shirts featuring quotes of Chinese PM Wen Jiabao get confiscated
A Chinese company was penalized for selling politically themed T-shirts and using the images of Chinese leaders over violation of the country’s advertising law.
Vancl, an online clothing retailer, advertised on its official website its latest two T-shirts lines that were inspired by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Even though images of the two politicians did not appear on any of the T-shirts, they were splashed all over the web pages that showcases the two lines, named respectively “Look Up At the Starry Sky” and “Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour”.
Vancl superimposed news photos of Wen onto its ads.
In addition, signature quotations of and key words closely associated with Wen and Deng were printed on Vancl’s T-shirts, including “Look Up At the Starry Sky,” “Forget About Me”, “Self-Reflection”, “Independent Character”, “Reform”.
“Look Up At The Starry Sky” is the title of a poem written by Wen and published in the state-run newspaper People’s Daily in 2007. All of the rest of Wen’s quotes are picked from Wen’s emotional remarks this March at a press conference at the end of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress.
For example, “Independent Character” comes from his comment “My independent character has not won people’s understanding.”
“Forget About Me” is a reference to his quote “I sincerely hope that the people will forget me and all the concrete things I have done for them, and let these things fall into oblivion as one day I shall go to my eternal rest.”
“Self-reflection” alludes to his comment on the heatedly discussed political struggling involving former Chongqing Party Chief Bo Xilai and his police chief Wang Lijun, when he said, “The current party committee and government of Chongqing must reflect on the Wang Lijun incident and learn lessons from this incident.”
Wang Lijun, a former sidekick of Bo Xilai, walked into the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu to seek political asylum from probably persecution after he found evidence that points to Bo’s wife as the mastermind behind a murder of a British businessman. The incident, which received huge attention from home and abroad, led to the downfall of Bo Xilai and gradual exposure of wrong doings of Bo’s family.
Vancl’s introduction of the Wen- and Deng-themed T-shirts was immediately met with controversy and disbelief. The web pages were taken down only hours after its appearance. The products were also pulled from its online shelves.
Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce, a watchdog government agency, told Xinhua on April 25 that Vancl’s use of national political leaders in its advertising campaign has violated the advertising law that prohibits promotion that features government agencies or figures in the civil service. According to the Xinhua news report, netizens found the campaign that misappropriated Wen’s photos offensive, and criticized Vancl heavily.
Some people believed that Vancl was emboldened by Chinese netizens’ unprecedented enthusiasm for politics and signs of Beijing embracing political reform, after Bo Xilai, a flamboyant politician who openly sang praises for Mao and revolutions, fell from grace in the full blaze of publicity.
Vancl, China’s largest apparel web-exclusive retailer, is known for selling cheap-chic duds tailored to young urbanites. Its aggressive advertising strategy, characterized by ubiquitous outdoor and online campaigns, has proved a success, after a poster features a photograph of blogger Hanhan and his terse personal statement struck the chord with young Chinese who value individualism and went viral.
“Deng Xiaoping’s southern tour” T-shirts feature words like “Southern Winds Caressing the Face” and “Reform”
Selected comments from Sina Weibo:
周轶君: I remember that when (Angela) Merkel’s image appeared in a lingerie ad, she didn’t have any reaction.
三三黄: A prudish nation.
舞落花哉: This is a publicity stunt employed by Vancl. They don’t care even if they are fined later. The fine must be way lower than what they could have spent on an advertisement. And the PR hype has achieved a great effect.
娜笔牛奶：Obama sells mugs and T-shirts with his images on Facebook to raise fund for his campaign. In China, leaders always project a stiff and serious image, so naturally they will become the favorite subjects of political analysis.
耶鲁校友: I thought it was a hoax by netizens. Never expected it to be a real thing.
魏林91：It is at least a violation of portraiture right.
曾明之-旭: It is an undisputable infringement of the copyright of the image and portraiture right. How terrible it can be when one is so ignorant!
朗空-格：These leaders have no sense of humor at all~ They don’t appreciate recognition of them and are so hoity-toity~ What a damper~
代驾男：When it comes to penalizing such things, our public servants suddenly become so quick and efficient.
峯尚: It seems this time Vancl has really messed up! They had the nerve to use Brother Bao (referring to Wen Jiabao) in its campaign! Did they think it were in the United States?
拖拉晚睡症患者: Think about George W. Bush in countless political cartoons… Do those leaders really have to turn our country into another North Korea?
虎皮鲨: “Netizens criticized it?” What a f**king lame excuse!!!
安娜糕: Exactly! I think it is quite good. It’s not demonization or denigration, after all. What a pity! I should have grabbed one T-shirt~
Lin微不乱： The head of Chairman Mao appeared on daily necessities, such as enamel caps. It wasn’t a big deal back then, was it?
蜷川实瓜：Should have used as campaign slogan “We’ve come late! (referring to his tagline when visiting accident and disaster sites)”
周问鼎Tim: A prudish country with no sense of humor or confidence. Worship of officialdom, as always.
shiyisnoopy：T-shirts with Che Guevara can be seen everywhere on the streets. Why doesn’t the state interfere with them? He is the father of you communists. Be open-minded in politics. Moreover, don’t use netizens as an excuse.