The Chinese Embassy in Berlin has demanded an apology from the German online retailer that was caught last week selling offensive shirts on its site.
Spreadshirt.com allows users to create their own T-shirt designs and then sell them on its online platform. Recently, two of its users decided to take advantage of this creative freedom to create a pair of controversial designs, reading: “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” and “Save a shark, eat a Chinese.” The racist designs made international news, causing a horde of angry netizens to descend upon the German company’s social media pages.
Apparently, the Chinese government were also not fans of the designers’ work. The Chinese Embassy in Berlin has demanded that Spreadshirt.com remove all associated products from its site, offer appropriate explanations and make an apology to the Chinese people. The embassy has even gone so far as to issue a complaint to the German government, demanding that Germany “tighten regulations to avoid the risk of hurting the feelings of the people’s of the two countries.”
An editorial published by the Global Times over the weekend tried to link the t-shirt controversy to a “disturbing pattern” of double standards when it comes to racism against Chinese that it claims is partly supported by “biased coverage” from Western media:
The company initially argued that the expressions are meant to be humorous not racist. How could these obvious racist and offensive remarks be allowed to appear on a product? Is Spreadshirt.com too numb about the boundary of racial discrimination or could it be that it just doesn’t care about how the Chinese people would feel when the company touts racist slur as creative design?
From time to time, similar incidents have occurred in Western countries, but it is often dismissed as slip of the tongue, a careless joke or even considered as freedom of expression. It is unimaginable that anyone or any company could display racist remarks without worrying about the backlash. Put it another way, will anyone take anti-Semitic expression as humorous or creative in Germany?
“Spreadshirt.com is now notorious in the eyes of Chinese people. Those who intend to engage with China should know where the bottom line is,” the editorial ends.
While a Spreadshirt.com spokesperson did say that the controversial T-shirt design were meant to be humorous and not racist, and stated that they would not be pulled from the site, the designs have in fact disappeared from the platform. Meanwhile, its not clear what kind of regulations could be put in place to prevent this from happening again. Spreadshirt.com likely does not have the manpower to content check each of its user’s t-shirt designs.
Additionally, similar t-shirt designs have been spotted up for sale at various online shopping sites, including Zazzle and Amazon. The Chinese Embassy in Washington has yet to seek out an apology from either of these companies.
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