A pro-Beijing newspaper has accused Don Don Donki, a Japanese chain store, of breaching the national security law.
Its crime? Selling bags in the brand’s signature bright yellow with the words “add oil” (加油) and “If not now, then when?” on them.
Wen Wei Po, a newspaper owned by a Communist Party organ, published an article on Tuesday criticizing the store for selling what it perceived as pro-protest items.
In an accompanying clip, Wen Wei Po featured a picture of the bags, which was screenshot from a video uploaded by a local YouTube celebrity Jason Chau. The paper said the yellow bags had “recently been discovered” at Donki, and that the products could be illegal under the national security law.
But the video, filmed at Donki’s Tsuen Wan outlet, was actually shot almost a year ago when the store had just opened last December.
In a phone call, the Tsuen Wan store told Coconuts they did not have the bags for sale currently but could not confirm if they had them in stock before. The chain’s Causeway Bay and Central outlets said they had never sold these bags, suggesting that they might have been a limited-time item to mark last year’s opening of the Tsuen Wan store.
The national security law, the government has emphasized, cannot be retroactively applied—although recent political developments have suggested otherwise.
Coconuts reached out to Donki’s head office but has not heard back at the time of writing.
Wen Wei Po added that pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow recently uploaded a music video on YouTube of her singing Donki’s theme song, hinting that the professionalism and high-quality nature of the video suggests this was an official partnership with the store.
But Chow, who is fluent in Japanese, wrote in the video’s description that the clip is not an advertisement.
Don Don Donki has expanded rapidly in Hong Kong this year, opening three new outlets—with the Tseung Kwan O location being the latest—between June and November.
The store is known for selling discounted merchandise including groceries, toys, household items, toiletries and more.