Vans shoes face boycott calls after company removes design referring to Hong Kong protests
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Skating brand Vans is facing boycott calls after removing a shoe alluding to protests in Hong Kong from a sneaker design competition.

The design, featuring a red bauhinia, the flower on Hong Kong's flag, and one of the yellow umbrellas synonymous with the city's 2014 pro-democracy protest, was removed from the Vans Custom Culture competition on Saturday.

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Vans said in a Facebook post that a "small number of artistic submissions have been removed ... to uphold the purpose of Custom Culture."

"As a brand that is open to everyone, we have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company's long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition," the company added, without referring specifically to the protest-themed design.

The decision quickly drew condemnation from supporters of the protests on social media, who shared their frustration with the hashtag #boycottVans.

Some users uploaded videos and photos of themselves throwing their Vans sneakers in the trash, and even setting them on fire.

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated in Hong Kong for months. Begun in opposition to a bill allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, the protests have evolved into a broad pro-democracy movement.

The semi-autonomous city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, withdrew the extradition bill last month, but protests have continued and even expanded.