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.
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. [file]
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
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.