A claim that a Starbucks barista in Hong Kong wrote a pro-democracy message on cups intended for mainland customers has provoked an angry outburst against the American coffee shop giant on Chinese social media.
A verified user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform claimed on Monday that his friend had ordered three drinks in Mandarin from the Peking Road branch of Starbucks in the Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district, which is popular with mainland Chinese, and found the barista had written “dear, democracy is a good thing” on the cups.
“I don’t know if this is specifically targeted. My friend said the South-East Asian customers behind them did not get that message written on their cups,” the user wrote to his 29,000 followers. He also posted a photo of the three cups and tagged Starbucks China.
“My friend and I are very angry, but didn’t bring it up at the time for our safety. I think at this particular time, a global chain like Starbucks should really keep their employees’ conduct within bounds, and not let customers spend money buying something that makes them disgusted.”
The slogan “dear, democracy is a good thing” has been used at marches in Tsim Tsa Tsui, specifically targeting mainland shoppers, with protesters using Mandarin to make their message heard.
An employee at Tsim Sha Tsui Starbucks said they would look into the matter of the cups. Starbucks has been contacted for comment.
Meanwhile, the Weibo page of Starbucks China has been flooded by angry commenters criticising the employee for allegedly supporting Hong Kong democracy and “discriminating” against mainland Chinese customers.
Universal suffrage has become a key demand of the large-scale anti-government protests that have rocked the city for the third month in a row.
“I don’t drink Starbucks because I have more money, but because it provides a superior customer experience. This kind of activity has clearly upset a lot of loyal customers,” read one top-rated comment on Starbucks China’s Weibo page.
The popular Taiwanese bubble tea chain CoCo was also on the receiving end of a mainland internet backlash due to a viral photo of a receipt from its Hong Kong Wan Chai branch that said “Hongkongers, add oil!” – a popular phrase of encouragement that has become widely associated with the protests.
CoCo released a statement on Friday saying the text was added by staff and that the shop was now closed. However, a visit by the South China Morning Post found the Wan Chai branch operating as usual.
Numerous global brands such as Coach, Givenchy, ASICS, Calvin Klein and Versace have apologised in recent days after China’s online community attacked them for listing Hong Kong as separate from China on their official websites and products.
The anti-government protests have forced various Chinese companies and celebrities to show their patriotism, as mainland Internet commenters have become more fervent in attacking Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters. – South China Morning Post
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