No go for Taiwanese bakery chain on Chinese food delivery apps

An 85°C store in Shanghai, one of the bakery’s 628 outlets in mainland China. The Taiwanese chain was hit by boycott calls after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was photographed visiting one of its Los Angeles stores.
An 85°C store in Shanghai, one of the bakery’s 628 outlets in mainland China. The Taiwanese chain was hit by boycott calls after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was photographed visiting one of its Los Angeles stores. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI/TAIPEI • Chinese food delivery platforms Meituan-Dianping and Ele.me have taken down listings for Taiwan’s 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery Cafe (85°C), checks on their apps showed, amid boycott calls from social media users who said the chain supported Taiwan independence.

The move by the Chinese companies comes after 85°C, which has 628 stores in mainland China, was hit by calls for a boycott on Chinese social media after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was photographed on Sunday visiting one of its Los Angeles stores during her visit to the United States.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and Beijing, which considers it a wayward province, has in recent months become increasingly critical of how companies refer to the self-ruled, democratic island.

Checks on the Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping and Alibaba-owned Ele.me apps yesterday showed that the option for users to order food deliveries from 85°C stores was no longer available.

It was not clear when the listings were taken down from the apps but Chinese state media reported it yesterday.

On Wednesday, 85°C issued a statement on its mainland website in response to criticism over Ms Tsai’s visit, saying that it firmly supported the “one China policy” and encouraged the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Huang Chung-yen, a spokes-man for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said 85°C was subjected to “unwarranted pressure” and forced to release a “humiliating” statement, adding that Taiwan condemned such actions against freedom of speech.

Mr Long Mingbiao, a deputy minister at China’s policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters in Beijing that China welcomed Taiwan companies coming to the mainland to invest and develop.

“At the same time, we oppose and will not allow any Taiwan company to earn money in the mainland and then go and support Taiwan independence forces or activities,” he said.

Many Chinese social media users said yesterday that they were supportive of the removal of 85°C from the food delivery apps, but some lamented that customers were also penalised.

“Politics is politics and business is business, but we people are innocent, ” said one with the username “shengxiaomei”.

Meanwhile, the owner of a Starwood-branded hotel in Taiwan said yesterday it will terminate its contract with Marriott International, in protest over the US group caving in to

Beijing pressure to list the island as part of China.

Four Points by Sheraton in Zhonghe, a district in Taipei, announced – in a front-page advertisement in local newspaper the Liberty Times – that it will terminate its franchise agreement with the parent group.

Marriott was strongly criticised by the Chinese authorities in January for listing Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries. They are all regions which Beijing claims under its authority.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'No go for Taiwanese bakery chain on Chinese food delivery apps'. Print Edition | Subscribe