A promotional video titled ‘The Hunt' and developed by F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi and meant to be a tribute to the work of photographers and photojournalists around the world has been strongly criticized in China and banned on the social media site Weibo.
The video takes place in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, a topic that is still under strong censorship by the Chinese government. The video's most controversial sequence shows an English speaking journalist being questioned by Chinese authorities. Although Tiananmen Square is never explicitly mentioned, the video prominently addresses to the location of the protests as Beijing in 1989. The video ends with the photographer raising his camera to take a picture and in the camera lens a reflection of the “Tank Man”, one of the most significant images of the 20th century.
The video is produced by the Brazilian ad agency F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, as reported by the South China Morning Post. Although the ad company has done several jobs for Laica in the past, the German company has declared that the ad was not officially sanctioned. The company, therefore, decided to take distance from the video. “Leica Camera AG must, therefore, distance itself from the content shown in the video and regrets any misunderstandings or false conclusions that may have been drawn,” Emily Anderson, a spokesperson for Leica, told SCMP.
Leica has a huge presence in China as it is the builder of Huawei's smartphone lenses, in addition to selling its cameras. At the same time, China's patriotic support for Huawei is very high, especially now that the tech giant has become one of the central players in the deterioration of diplomatic relations with the U.S.A. Sellers are applying discounts on the Huawei phones. A Weibo user commented on Leica: “Do you even deserve to collaborate with our patriotic Huawei?” as reported on SCMP.
All of this happens just a few months away from the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square's protests. Chinese censors will be extra zealous with all the internet content, and Laica will likely defend first and foremost its economic interests.