'Stop romanticizing this': Tourism ad for Hong Kong backfires, reminds viewers of abusive relationships

Hope Schreiber
·Writer
What was meant to be a romantic tourism ad for Hong Kong reminds some viewers of human trafficking. (Photo: @discoverhk via Twitter)
What was meant to be a romantic tourism ad for Hong Kong reminds some viewers of human trafficking. (Photo: @discoverhk via Twitter)

A tourism ad hoping to promote Hong Kong by portraying a quirky romantic adventure has backfired, as some viewers find the storyline reminiscent of an abusive relationship.

The “Treasures of the Heart” campaign, directed by Chan Chi-fat, shows a young woman frantically packing her bags and searching for her passport — until she realizes that her boyfriend has taken it, all because he doesn’t want her to leave Hong Kong to go to college.

Many are calling it a “terrible message” and likening the ad to the beginnings of human trafficking.

It is illegal to take someone’s passport to prevent them from traveling. On top of that, it is a form of a manipulative behavior or possibly coercive control. Some commenters even went as far as to suggest that withholding a passport is a tactic frequently used by sex traffickers to trap women.

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One Twitter user called it a “terrible message,” and even offered their own take on a better ad, tweeting, “A better message and advert would be him getting dumped and his gf going to leave to go abroad , him finding the passport she doesnt know she has lost but needs and then him taking it to the girl so she can pursue her dreams and then possibly realising he is the boy for her.”

Another person, sharing their mother’s similar experience with their abusive father, wrote, “My father destroyed my mother’s passports (new and old copies) because he felt that she doesn’t deserve to leave the house. Do you know how it feels to have an abusive partner who takes liberty in deciding everything for you? It’s hell. Don’t romanticise abusers.”

One woman shared her own experience, tweeting, “Fun fact: my abusive ex husband would steal my passport to control me. Not sure what the ad agency who came up with this was thinking, but clearly they have missed the mark.”

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