Netizens are angry over a Beijing restaurant’s refusal to serve diners from countries, including Vietnam, that have maritime territorial disputes with China.
The restaurant, Beijing Snacks, located in the Houhai Lake neighborhood, a popular tourist spot to the north of the Forbidden City, has put a sign on its door in Chinese and English that says, “This shop does not receive the Japanese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese and dog” [sic].
It is unclear when the restaurant owner, surnamed Wang, published this notice, but it was seen on Chinese microblogging platforms last September.
Wang recently told Tuoi Tre by telephone that he posted such a notice to speak his mind, and nothing else was implied in it.
When asked how he feels about Japanese, Filippinos, and Vietnamese seeing the notice, he said bluntly that they had better not read these words and then abruptly hung up.
The owner told BBC Chinese on Monday that he does not care what others may think about his sign, and that he put it up out of “patriotism.”
Tuoi Tre emailed the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on Tuesday to ask for comment on the incident but has yet to receive any response.
China is now locked in spats with Vietnam and the Philippines over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in the East Sea, and with Japan over Senkaku/Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
‘Racism with a nationalist twist’
Four photos of the sign have gone viral online since February 22 when Rose Tang, a 44-year-old painter and writer who was born and raised in mainland China but now lives in New York, took them on her visit to Beijing.
Over 3,500 people have shared them on Facebook, and thousands of others followed and commented on Tang’s photos, captioned “Racism with a nationalist twist,” over the last few days.
The woman, who spent twelve years reporting for CNN and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, told Tuoi Tre that she “put up the photos on my Facebook because I felt obliged to expose it,” the manifestation of a popular public sentiment growing more vocal in recent years in China.
“I didn’t bother to go inside the restaurant to interview anyone … I pretty much knew what the owner or whoever put up the sign would say and I’ve been fed up with such patriotic/racist rhetorics in China and didn’t want to hear more,” said Tang, a former journalism professor at Princeton University.
She was chased by protesters who showered her with rocks when she was covering the anti-NATO rallies outside the UK and US embassies in Beijing in 1999 as soon as they discovered she was reporting for a Hong Kong publication, Asiaweek magazine, the ex-reporter recalled.
“I think such national pride stems from a deep inferiority complex,” she added. “I hear all the time people raving about China’s rise, but ironically every Chinese family I know of is trying to send their children to America.”
Tang said that she is “hoping pressure from the public and media will teach [Wang and people like him] a lesson.”
Paul Mooney, a freelance reporter in Beijing, commented on one of Tang’s photos that “this is the government and Party’s fault. They tell lies about other countries and distort history and so Chinese who don’t know any better respond with ignorance. Very depressing.” About 250 people have liked this comment so far.
Quoc Vinh, a Vietnamese living in California, observed that “the very reason behind this is the “cow tongue” border that China claims on the Pacific. Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam are all fighting with China against its ridiculous claim. However, China is good in educating its people, so they believe that their country is being invaded, not invading others.”
Another Facebook user nicknamed Andrea Wanderer believed “this is teaching hate to the younger generation so they grow up preaching animosity towards other countries in Asia.”
“Sea politics has made it to the dining table!” remarked Yenni Kwok, copy editor at the International Herald Tribune and Time Magazine.
Many pictures of Chinese restaurants putting up xenophobic signs suddenly surfaced on microblogging services like Sina Weibo and Tengxun Weibo in September last year.
Reactions have varied to these notices.
Duowanshitouxiong, a nickname, wrote on Tengxun Weibo that a waiter once asked her/him if he/she could speak a human language when he/she was pointing at dishes on the menu in a restaurant in China.
That person responded angrily while the waiter simply smiled, the poster said, adding he/she saw a racist notice outside the restaurant after leaving.
Another netizen, Wenzi Meifengguonianpangshijin, commented on the same site that a ten percent discount should be granted to those who shout that the Senkaku/Diaoyu belong to China and a twenty percent one to people saying Japan is part of China.
Many others said that these voices indicate extreme nationalism that deserves to be condemned.
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