Cheaters’ pneumonia: Vandals graffiti office of COVID-19 cluster as netizens decry links to controversial MLM company

Photos via Apple Daily
Photos via Apple Daily

The Mong Kok office of a direct-selling company where a cluster outbreak of almost 40 COVID-19 infections has been traced to was tagged with graffiti overnight, local media reports.

The glass windows of Star Global, a company that sells a range of products including cosmetics and wine, were scrawled with the phrases “Wuhan virus hotspot,” “[funeral] tribute,” “be careful of cheaters’ pneumonia” and “eat sh-t Yeung Shing-man,” who media reports is the director of the company.

According to local media, Star Global is linked to controversial multi-level marketing firm Digital Crown Holdings (DCHL), which over the years has allegedly operated pyramid schemes under the guise of different company names, including Francine and Belle Venture. In 2013, after protests by victims of the schemes who said they had been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars, the firm reportedly vowed to refund HK$67,000 (US$8,600) to customers.

In a Facebook group called “Anti-DCHL Association,” which has been active since 2009, netizens celebrated news updates about the growing Star Global cluster. “[It’s] revenge,” one netizen wrote in a post on Friday, accompanied by a news article about more workers at the company testing positive.

After reports of the cluster, ex-employees of the company wrote online that despite the epidemic, Star Global has continued to hold events and training sessions with over a hundred people in attendance each time.

According to Apple Daily, workers occasionally take off their masks during gatherings. The paper also reports that some in the company believe the essential oils they sell are effective disinfectants, and are not afraid of catching the virus. Employees who have been infected have also been accused of concealing information about their recent activity, making it more difficult for authorities to track down close contacts.

As of Monday, 37 virus cases have been linked to Star Global.

Around 100 people who had participated in the company’s recent activities, or are close contacts of those infected, have been sent to quarantine centers.

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