Chinese Government Bans the Word 'Leica' After Controversial Tank Man Photo Featured in New Ad

Leica’s new advert has sparked a backlash in China so severe that the government has banned the company’s name on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Bad news for Leica, given that China is one of their biggest growth markets in the world.

The video, which is titled “The Hunt” and contains strong language, depicts a photojournalist attempting to document the Chinese government’s crackdown during pro-democracy protests in Beijing back in 1989.

To make matters worse, the closing scene features the controversial “Tank Man” photo appearing in his lens.

Speaking to PetaPixel, Leica’s Brazilian ad agency, F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, had previously said at the launch of the ad:

Inspired by stories of photographers who spared no efforts for everyone to see reality, Leica launches today a new production dedicated to these professionals. It is a unique narrative about risk, passion, and history.

The original upload has since been removed from YouTube, with many Chinese citizens voicing their concern that the clip was offensive to their country. A number even asked the question of whether Leica are worthy of collaborating with Huawei, making reference to the fact the phone brand has been prominently using Leica camera technology.

The complaints have only snowballed since, resulting in the Chinese government banning the word “Leica” in both English and Chinese on Weibo. Anyone trying to use the word in their posts on the platform was greeted with a warning that they were “violating laws, regulations, or the Weibo community guidelines.”

As for Leica’s response? They are now claiming the ad wasn’t official. According to the South China Morning Post, a spokeswoman said the ad, which ends with the Leica logo, “was not an officially sanctioned marketing film commissioned by the company […] 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.”

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Jon G's picture

This action on the part of the Chinese government will probably just make Leica more sought after among Chinese consumers. Now in addition to overpaying for your camera you get to be a "rebel"! ;)

Spy Black's picture

Goes to show how spineless corporations are. Not that they cared about journalism in the first place. Sales, sales, sales...

Well the truth is, the word "Leica" in English and Chinese weren't banned at all, it's just the posts of and about the video were deleted. The word "Leica" can be posted and searched without problem.

David Anderson's picture

Leica? What's that ?

A lot of noise for nothing : the original image was shot on a Nikon FE2 body and Nikon 400mm 5.6 ED IF, not a Leica R7 (released 3 years after the events in Beijing) as shown in the video.
Good job taking undue credit, Leica.

Andrew Almeida's picture

Ironically, the Tank Man photo wasn't taken with a Leica. It was taken with a Nikon FE2.

Fritz Asuro's picture

"clip was offensive to their country"

How? It's clearly not representation of China today. I don't see the ad to be an insult to China.Those kind of days happened and it's not really something you can just hide.

There is no free press in China or any other Communist Country for a reason. The Government controls everything. Anything truthful that can't be used for propaganda is put down. During this time in May of 1989 the Chinese Government estimated that they killed over 10,000 Chinese Students.


Scott Wardwell's picture

How can anyone in China be offended by something on YouTube when western internet sites are blocked in China and the average Chinese is prevented from seeing anything? Probably an eagle-eyed government troll who does have access and reports back to Xi's lackeys. Sounds like Patreon and manifest observable behavior and the Chinese are working to block us as well.

30 years later and the West still doesn't (won't) understand the Chinese mindset.

It used to be the West imposed all the sanctions on uncooperative or unfriendly countries. Now China gets to throw it's weight around. If only people read history books.

Rk K's picture

We understate it all right, censorship and silencing wrong opinions are par for the course in every oppressive dictatorship. Doesn't mean it's okay.

Oh you mean like American "Indians"? Or African Americans? Or Julian Assange? Riiiiightttt.

Rk K's picture

No, I'm not American, try again. I know which government has its critics disappear in prisons, only for their organs to appear in museums worldwide. Or keeping an iron grip on what the truth is for its citizens. Your little false equivalences aren't going to change that...

Of course not.

You don't seem to get that quite a significant portion of China supports the government's actions. Chinese value social order at the cost of individual freedoms (selfish individualism to them). China is even more prosperous since Tiananmen and has brought economic freedom to its population. In the west, such "oppression" is unacceptable and yet "freedom" and "democracy" came after imperialism, war, slavery and greenhouse gases. Who is the greater criminal?

Doesn't matter even if every Chinese citizen supports government oppression. It's still oppression. Fyi, China was becoming prosperous before the Tiananmen massacre because it experimented with allowing limited free markets and private ownership after the diastrous policies of Mao de Dung (my spelling). China's economy is slowing down dramatically now, and thanks to their regressive policies, will eventually stagnate, unless they embrace real freedom and free markets.

The U.S. was never imperialist. You're confusing the U.S. with the territorial expansion and occupation policies of "colonialist" Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, China and the former Soviet Union. Slavery was opposed by most in the U.S. from its founding and we fought a civil war to end it. Democracy was a hallmark of American government from the very beginning and was codified in the Constitution but Southern slavery and discrimination required a war and clarifying amendments to the Constitution to eradicate it. Maybe your great-grandaddy supported slavery, but mine didn't.

And "greenhous gases"? Seriously? Apparently you're not very well read. There is no evidence that CO2 and methane are having any measurable impact on "global warming" er "climate change". The CMIP climate models say they do but measurements of the real world contradict them. I'd be happy to supply links to those measurements if you're interested in becoming educated.

If it's not too much trouble can I get those links? I don't really know enough about climate change to really form an opinion on it so I'd like to read more on it.

Your babble is *full* of factual errors. The USA's annexation of Hawaii as example. The USA even had expansionist intentions to subsume Canada for Gawdsake. The founding fathers of the USA owned slaves. The American constitution guarranteed equality for white men, to which women and blacks were understood not to be equal. And let's not forget about post WWII, Vietam, S. Korea, Iraq etc. Oh let's give them all democracy! And now we all enjoy the tyrrany of current day democracy to the likes of Trump and NRA.

Lauren Anderson, the only thing inside your head is GHGs, but of course this is not clouding your judgement.

Was any research done before publishing this article? It does not look like it.

chris bryant's picture

From what I can gather this video has NOTHING to do with Leica.

Daniel Bayer's picture

It does. F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi is their ad agency in Brazil, and it's the same agency who did the global ad who won the Grand Prix at Cannes Festival in 2015.

The sooner Western corporations and governments stop kissing up to China, stop complying with their oppressive, imperialist policies and stop yielding to their predatory trade practices and start asserting themselves and their support of freedom and free markets, the sooner the Chinese communists will fail. Communism has failed everywhere it's been tried, but the Chinese communist party clings to power by being partially pragmatic and allowing a certain amount of private ownership and freedom. It is not in any sense a government that derives its authority from the consent of the governed however, unlike Western democratic republics that are truly free. China is controlled with an iron fist by the communist party aristocracy.

This is a powerful film if you know history.