BEIJING – Authorities in east China’s Nanjing City are investigating Singapore coffee and toast chain Ya Kun Kaya Toast for listing Taiwan as a country in its promotional material.
Whether the Qixia district outlet in Nanjing reopens will depend on the outcome of the investigation, the local branch of the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) told the Straits Times on Thursday (October 21).
The SAMR is the main monitoring body of the Chinese market and has broad powers ranging from licensing companies to drafting laws.
Market regulators ordered Ya Kun’s outlet in Nanjing Golden Eagle Mall on Monday, after netizens complained that a promotional video shown in the restaurant listed Taiwan as one of the 10 countries where the chain operates. .
“We will issue a statement once the investigations are completed,” said a SAMR representative, without specifying a timeline.
Ya Kun’s other two outlets in Nanjing are not under investigation because they did not show the controversial music video in their stores, local media reported.
Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and has punished companies and berated governments for referring to Taiwan as a country.
In 2018, Japanese retailer Muji was fined 200,000 yuan (S $ 42,077) in Shanghai for using packaging listing Taiwan as a country.
That year, the Civil Aviation Administration of China also asked several airlines to remove references to Taiwan as a separate country from their websites.
Chinese cyber warriors – known as Little Pinks – jumped on Ya Kun on Tuesday, after state media released a 44-second clip about the channel’s problems.
A hashtag on the Weibo microblogging site referring to Ya Kun’s promotional music video has attracted 94.6 million views and sparked 2,787 discussions so far, with netizens calling for the channel to leave China.
A search of Ya Kun’s website returned an error message after clicking the Overseas Sites tab, but online marketplace Anxingjiameng lists the company as having 16 outlets in China in cities such as than Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hangzhou.
In Singapore, netizens on ST’s Facebook page showed their support for Ya Kun by saying they would head to the restaurant chain for their meals.
Some netizens questioned why the Little Pinks felt the need to attack Ya Kun, while others also challenged Weibo’s ban on controversial Malaysian rapper Namewee and Taiwan-based Australian singer Kimberley Chen earlier this month.
On October 15, the duo released a satirical song called Fragile which referred to the hypersensitivity of the Little Pinks.
A music video for the song, which was posted on Weibo before it was banned, begins with a warning: “Please be careful if you are fragile pink,” and ends with footage of broken glass.
Namewee and Chen were both banned from Weibo after the song was released.
Facebook user Ken Chung said the Little Pinks proved the singers right with their latest attacks on Ya Kun.
But another user, Ari Netanhayu, said Ya Kun should be aware of China’s sensitivities if he wants to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.
“Otherwise, just shut down (his) business in China, then (Ya Kun) can say whatever he wants (he wants).”
Ya Kun brand and market development director Jesher Loi told ST earlier that the channel was working with authorities on the matter. He declined to comment further and could not be reached on Thursday.
- Additional reporting by Miao Chunlei