Chinese netizens slam Ya Kun for listing Taiwan as a country

China's cyber warriors - known infamously as Little Pinks - have targeted Singapore coffee-and-toast chain Ya Kun Kaya Toast for listing Taiwan as a country in its promotional material.

The attacks quickly gained traction on Chinese social media platform Weibo yesterday after a news outlet posted a clip showing a promotional video played at one of Ya Kun's outlets in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

In the Ya Kun video, a graphic showing the chain's international operations can be seen, and it lists Taiwan among 10 countries, including China, Japan, South Korea and Myanmar.

The accompanying Chinese subtitles read: "Our over 40 retail stores in 10 countries overseas have all been warmly welcomed."

Since news outlet btime.com released its news clip on Tuesday night, the hashtag - which refers to Singapore's food and beverage shop in Nanjing listing Taiwan as a country - has drawn more than 90 million views on Weibo.

It has also sparked 2,500 discussions on the microblogging site.

State media Beijing Radio and Television Station owns btime.com, which shares bite-size videos online.

Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has punished corporations and chastised governments for referring to Taiwan as a country.

In the 44-second news clip, which has attracted 3.9 million views, btime.com interviewed a mall employee, who said that the shop has been closed for at least two days after the mall received notification that it had "inappropriate advertising".

"We are awaiting instructions from the state on follow-up actions," the employee was heard saying in the clip.

When reached by The Straits Times, Ya Kun branding and market development director Jesher Loi said that the chain is working with the authorities on the issue. He declined to comment further.

A staff member at another of Ya Kun's outlets in Nanjing told The Straits Times that the one singled out in the news clip was closed, without elaborating.

Ya Kun has 16 outlets in China in cities such as Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hangzhou, according to online marketplace Anxingjiameng.

A search on Ya Kun's website returned an error message after its overseas locations tab was clicked.

Netizens called for Ya Kun's closure, and urged Chinese consumers not to patronise businesses that promote "Taiwan separatism".

"Ya Kun doesn't even have basic respect for China's sovereignty, but still wants to make money off Chinese citizens? Classic case of breaking the bowl after eating the rice!" user Fengmintianxia said, referring to a Chinese proverb.

In 2018, Japanese retailer Muji was fined 200,000 yuan (S$42,000) in Shanghai for using packaging that listed Taiwan as a country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2021, with the headline 'Chinese netizens slam Ya Kun for listing Taiwan as a country'. Subscribe