McDonald's Taiwan apologises for disabled customer row

TAIPEI (AFP) - McDonald's Taiwan on Wednesday apologised after one of its outlets called the police to remove a woman with Down's syndrome, triggering protests from disabled groups who accused the fast food giant of discrimination.

According to Taiwanese media, the customer, identified by her family name Wang, was trying to buy ice cream last week when a store manager called the police claiming that a homeless person was causing a commotion.

"I think it's very improper that the restaurant contacted the police to handle the matter in this isolated case," a spokeswoman for McDonald's Taiwan told reporters Wednesday in the southern Kaohsiung city where the incident took place.

"I apologise that this caused an unpleasant dining experience for Ms Wang and I thank Ms Wang and her family for accepting our apology," she said in footage aired by TVBS cable news channel.

The restaurant reportedly asked the police to escort Ms Wang out or take her to a hospital, but police found that she was not behaving inappropriately or bothering other customers.

The incident provoked a public outcry after local media reported it and several protests were staged outside McDonald's headquarters in Taipei this week demanding the company apologise for discriminating against mentally disabled people.

On Wednesday, about 50 protesters held placards reading "Don't bully me Uncle McDonald," and "We want truth, we want an apology" as they rallied outside the company.

"We are saddened and we regret that McDonald's which usually gives the impression of 'customers first' treats disabled people in this way," said Taiwan's Foundation for Down Syndrome.