Nov. 21–Amid pressure from a trio of congressional members, Addison-based cosmetics giant Mary Kay Inc. said Thursday that it has revised its sales force agreement in China that effectively reiterated a government ban against the Falun Gong spiritual group.
At issue is a previous agreement that endorsed the communist Chinese government’s view of Falun Gong, which it has branded an “evil sect.” Since the government began a crackdown in 1999, the Falun Gong has said that tens of thousands of its members have been punished and some killed.
The previous sales agreement said that Mary Kay, a privately held company with $1.6 billion in revenue, would operate in accordance with Chinese law. It also made reference to the group as an example of an organization or activity considered illegal by the Chinese government.
The Falun Gong reference has been deleted from the agreement, Mary Kay officials said Thursday. The sales agreement with Chinese women, however, continues to state that Mary Kay will operate in China in accordance with Chinese law.
“It was never our intent to single out Falun Gong,” said Randall Oxford, a Mary Kay spokesman. “It was simply used as an attempt to show a group that the Chinese considered illegal.”
About 120,000 Chinese women are part of the Mary Kay sales force in the country of 1.2 billion. The company entered China in 1995 as the economy sped off.
On Monday, in a terse letter to Mary Kay chairman and chief executive Richard Rogers, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., charged that the previous agreement was a “behavioral standards statement” in which workers could be fired. Mary Kay said that no workers were fired for refusing to sign the sales pledge.
Mr. Lantos criticized Mary Kay’s “active role” in assisting Chinese authorities in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in China. The letter was signed by two other members of the House’s International Relations Committee, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
The letter called for the company to “immediately revoke” the policy. Mr. Oxford said the policy was already being reviewed when the lawmakers sent their letter.