CHINA / National
Forbidden City mulls closing Starbucks(AP)
Updated: 2007-01-19 09:04
Beijing's Forbidden City palace is considering closing a Starbucks on its grounds after protests led by a state TV personality who says the American coffeehouse's presence is eroding Chinese culture, a news report said Thursday.
"The museum is working with Starbucks to find a solution by this June in response to the protests," the Xinhua News Agency quoted a palace spokesman, Feng Nai'en, as saying.
A news anchor for China Central Television has led an online campaign to remove the Starbucks, which opened in 2000 at the invitation of palace managers, who needed to raise money to maintain the 587-year-old complex of villas and gardens.
Starbucks' presence "undermined the Forbidden City's solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture," the anchorman, Rui Chenggang, wrote in his blog. Xinhua said "thousands of Chinese" backed the campaign but did not say how.
Starbucks' fate will be decided as part of a renovation that already has seen one-third of the shops removed from the vermillion-walled, 178-acre (82-hectare) palace, Feng said.
"Whether or not Starbucks remains depends on the entire design plan that will be released in the first half of the year," he said.
Starbucks' vice president for Greater China, Eden Woon, declined to say whether the two sides were discussing closing the outlet.
But the company issued a statement defending its operation.
"Starbucks appreciates the deep history and culture of the Forbidden City and has operated in a respectful manner that fits within the environment," the statement said. "We have provided a welcome place of rest for thousands of tourists, both Chinese and foreign, for more than six years."
The palace Starbucks has been the target of similar criticism in the past. Shortly after it opened, the company agreed to remove an outdoor sign following complaints that it was inappropriate.
The palace is among 24 Chinese sites granted World Heritage status by the
U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.