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Can multinational retailers remain politically neutral in greater China?

HONG KONG -- China's vast population with its rising spending power is courted by retailers and international brands all over the world. But the recent controversy around French cosmetic-maker Lancome's cancellation of a concert featuring pro-democracy Hong Kong singer Denise Ho underscores the complexity of corporate diplomacy in an increasingly China-centric marketplace.

Pressure has been mounting on Lancome to reconsider its decision to call off the concert since the row broke out on June 6. Lancome's cancellation came after Chinese state mouthpiece the Global Times censured Ho for allegedly endorsing separatism of the former British colony on microblogging site Weibo. Lancome's move was seen as "kowtowing" to Beijing at the expense of freedom of speech, equality and justice.

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