HONG KONG — Jackie Chan took to the stage in Hong Kong last Thursday, fought off a group of assailants wearing Jackie Chan masks, attacked a stall with a chain saw and ripped the clothing off an individual who appeared on stage claiming to be a tourist.
The man, who ended up in his boxer shorts, was Compagnie Financiere Richemont chief intellectual property council and executive director Frederick Mostert, who, in his capacity as honorary chairman of the International Trademark Association, was, with Chan, launching an international campaign titled “Fakes Cost More.”
The forceful point behind the media event was that counterfeiting is not a victimless crime.
“Consumers should consider the social issues,” said Mostert, once he had donned a pair of trousers, to a media gathering at Hong Kong’s Convention & Exhibition Center. “They could well be supporting child labor, organized crime, international terrorism and tax evasion.”
In support of this theme, Mostert quoted a range of statistics that deliberately went beyond the luxury-goods violations with which counterfeiting is normally associated.
“The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 15 percent of all pharmaceuticals are fake,” he said. “And a year ago — this is the one that really scares me — a fake medical product was planted in a man in the United States and the fake mesh probably wasn’t even sterile.”
Frustration with slow law enforcement worldwide would seem to be part of the impetus behind the new campaign, which emphasizes personal suffering and is clearly targeting the emotions, as much as the consciences, of consumers.
“No, I don’t want to say it’s a switch of emphasis,” said Mostert backstage after the event, consulting his authentic Panerai watch, having had the fake Cartier one he wore in his bumbling-tourist role smashed by Chan. “The work of governments, police, customs departments has to continue. But consumers are ignorant about these links with child labor and international terrorism and if you tell them, they’re shocked.”
Mostert, in his press presentation, referred to Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism & Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and to Ronald Noble, Interpol’s secretary-general.
This story first appeared in the June 7, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Two days before the conference, Hong Kong’s media reported that the Customs & Excise department had arrested a man who sold a fake Hermes bag for 8,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $1,025, to an undercover customs officer and a Hermes representative who were posing as tourists. The shop, in the middle of Hong Kong’s upmarket Central district, had been put under surveillance for two weeks at the request of Hermes Greater China’s managing director Bertrand Michaud. Nineteen other fake Hermes bags, of unusually high quality, were also seized.
“I decided to make an example of this man to give a very strong message in Hong Kong,” said Michaud, who is also president of the French Chamber of Commerce in the city. The man has not yet been charged. “The Customs & Excise department do their best in Hong Kong, they set an example in Asia and the authorities understood why I wanted to do it. In China…it’s a bit difficult. We have to communicate and spend a lot more money to fight this because it’s a criminal activity which is becoming very dangerous.”