apanese retailer Muji has become the latest foreign company to feel China’s wrath for hurting Chinese feelings and violating the “one China” policy.
The company has been fined 200,000 yuan ($31,000) for selling 119 imported clothes hangers in China which were labeled as being “Made in Taiwan” and had “Taiwan” listed as their “country of origin.”
In a statement, the Shanghai Industry and Commerce Administration said that Muji had failed to fulfill its obligation to thoroughly examine its products before placing them on sale and had violated Chinese advertising law which bans any actions detrimental to China’s “national dignity or interests.”
The administration added that Muji has since rectified its mistakes and changed its packaging. While the fine was issued more than a month ago, the news only broke on Chinese media yesterday.
Muji becomes the latest victim in a Chinese government crackdown aimed at pressuring foreign companies to cease listing Taiwan as a country on their websites, packaging, and promotional materials.
The issue was first pushed to the forefront in January after the global hotel chain Marriott was found to have listed Taiwan, along with Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau, as separate “countries” on a customer survey, resulting in the brandbeing forced to suspend its website and app in China for one weekand issue a groveling apology for hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.
Soon, a number of other international companies,including Delta, Zara,and Qantas, were also exposed for having listed Taiwan as a separate “country” on their websites, attracting the attention and anger of China’s army of internet warriors.
China’s aviation administration sent out a notice last month to 36 international airlines demanding that they remove any reference on their websites or in other promotional materials that suggest that Taiwan is a country separate from China.
While the request was called “Orwellian nonsense” by the White House, a recent Associated Press investigation discovered that at least 20 foreign airlines had already caved to Beijing’s demands, includingAir Canada, British Airways, and Lufthansa.
And it’s not only foreign airlines that have been bending over to pressure applied by China. Last week, American retailer Gap issued an apology over a t-shirt design whichfeatured a map of China that did not include Taiwan. The shirt had been spotted by an outraged shopper in Canada before making its way to the Chinese internet.
At around the same time, an Australian mayorrevealedthat a Chinese vice consul was behind a local regional council’s decision toerase some Taiwanese flag artworkthat had been painted by a pair of high-school kids on a public statue of a bull ahead of a major beef expo, which was sure to draw Chinese representatives.
Lastly, back in March, Walmart issued a public apology after a customer at one of its Beijing outlets discovered that imported products from South Korea and the United Kingdom listed their “place of origin,” while a sign for those products from Taiwan read “country of origin.”
“Once again, we reaffirm that we will never permit any deliberate actions made to undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will also never do anything to encourage these actions in any form. We are deeply aware of the seriousness of this mistake and sincerely apologize again for hurting the feelings of the public and our loyal customers,” read the apology.