BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has drawn ire for renaming its popular travel site from Alitrip to Fei Zhu, which means "Flying Pig".
The group announced last week that it was rebranding its travel portal, with the website's English name to be known as Fliggy. The company also introduced a cartoon-like image of a pig as its new logo.
The rebranding was done to cater to the younger generation, its primary customer group, the company had said last Thursday (Oct 27).
"A key goal of the rebranding is to appeal to a younger demographic that accounts for more than 80 per cent of our customer base," Alibaba said in a statement.
That decision, however, has sparked heated discussions in the past few days, especially among Muslims, who consider pigs unclean.
The controversy began after Adili Maimaititure, a well-known Uighur food industry entrepreneur in Changsha, Hunan province, said last Friday on Sina Weibo that he used to support Alitrip but he will choose to delete the app as the name had been changed to feizhu.
Maimaititure said he had supported Alitrip as it makes booking train or air tickets for people of ethnic groups more convenient.
But he said pigs are taboo for Muslims, and Alibaba should have considered this before changing the name. He added that he believes that other Muslims would also take the same action.
His concern was shared by Peng Gaocheng, a retired ethnic studies expert in Shanghai. "I think Alibaba should be more cautious about changing its name in case some Muslims feel offended," Peng told Sixth Tone, an English website owned by ThePaper.cn.
Other online users, however, disagreed. A netizen named Han Dongyan said on Sina Weibo, "Alibaba has the right to change a name, and it is wrong to call on others to boycott it just because of a symbol."
"Feizhu is just a name and it has no substantial meaning," another netizen said. "It is nonsense to boycott the company just for changing its name."
In response, Alibaba said in its statement: "We embrace diversity, and respect all creeds and religions. The name change is meant to reflect the demographic's aspirations to pursue dreams, sit back and enjoy life."
Maimaititure later said on Sina Weibo that he apologised for his "improper expression" over the name change.