Beauty parlor ban takes ugly turn in online ire

Local | Carine Chow 8 Jan 2021

Over 3,000 beauty center staff united in a one-of-a-kind online protest to demand the government lift the ban on their operations.

The beauty sector has been ordered to suspend operations three times since the initial coronavirus outbreak a year ago, with the closures covering 114 days up until yesterday. Beauty parlors were last ordered to close on December 10 as the fourth wave hit.

With the pandemic still raging, the staff resorted to protesting online, as an actual rally is impossible under the gathering ban.

Some beauty centers opened their shops without serving any customers to give a fitting setting to their demands in a two-hour Facebook and Zoom livestream yesterday.

They demanded a "dialogue" with the government in the hope that officials can come up with a plan to help the industry get back to business.

More than 3,000 people from 800 beauty centers joined the protest at its peak, with some beauty workers putting on full protective gear to express their discontent.

Federation of Beauty Industry chairman Nelson Yip Sai-hung said the shutdown has put around 56,000 workers in the sector in dire straits.

"The government cannot turn a blind eye. The closures not only affect the business operators, but also their staff and the thousands of families they support," Yip said, calling for compensation for workers if the closure is extended beyond January 20.

The chief supervisor of the Cosmetic & Perfumery Association of Hong Kong, Joseph Ho Shiu-chung, said the suspension was unfair, as no customers have ever been infected in beauty parlors.

He reiterated that the industry had already adopted infection control measures that were more stringent than government requirements.

Centers were granted a one-off allowance of between HK$30,000 and HK$100,000 each under the latest HK$6.4 billion epidemic relief package announced last month, but business operators said the money helped property owners, not businesses, as it was mostly used to cover rent.

Meanwhile, six functional constituency lawmakers asked Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po to waive salary taxes and rates.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said he expects the pandemic to ease this year if vaccines are rolled out.

He said Hong Kong should reform the tax system and widen the tax base by charging high earners more, which could lessen the burden on the middle and lower income classes.

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