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Hong Kong Feminists Bristle at Prada IPO

Group cites Japan lawsuit alleging discrimination.

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TOKYO Prada's upcoming IPO in Hong Kong is upsetting feminists in the city. The Association for the Advancement of Feminism has expressed outrage about Prada's legal battles with Rina Bovrisse, a former retail manager in Japan who last year accused the Italian house of harassment and discrimination on the basis of employees' physical appearance.


The feminist organization has posted two letters on its Web site; one in Chinese addressed to Prada chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli, and another in English addressed to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.


Sally Choi, chair of the feminist group, said the letters were sent as the organization staged a protest outside Prada's Tsim Sha Tsui store in Hong Kong. Choi claimed about 30 people attended the protest.


"[W]e are shocked by the company's discriminatory practices against women employees and the fact that it has plans to file for IPO in Hong Kong. We are deeply concerned about the standards of companies listed or are to be listed in Hong Kong with regards to their discriminatory practices and sexual harassment towards women. We believe that since the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is vested with the power to assess the suitability of potential IPOs, it should also have the authority to prevent companies which are suspect of sex discrimination from filing for IPO in Hong Kong," the association said in the letter to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.


Prada had no comment.


A Hong Kong Exchange spokeswoman said it does not comment on individual listing applications or listed companies. She noted that when considering IPO candidates, the exchange considers various factors including "any material non-compliance" with the laws in the country in which the company operates.


Choi said that if the organization does not hear back from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange within a couple weeks, it might stage another protest in front of the exchange. The organization's leader charged that Bovrisse's case is part of a "pattern of discrimination against women," particularly in the retail industry.

As reported, Bovrisse filed her lawsuit last year alleging that Prada Japan ceo Davide Sesia asked her to eliminate about 30 retail staff members because he considered them overweight or unattractive. Prada has denied the charges and proceeded to file a countersuit alleging that Bovrisse made false statements.

Bovrisse said Tuesday that both her suit and Prada's countersuit are ongoing and the judges in both cases have been recently replaced, which has slowed the legal process.