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Company denies Filipino connections amid boycott calls

(Xinhua)

13:33, May 15, 2012

XIAMEN, May 15 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese supermarket chain has denied its overseas connections amid angry calls for a boycott after its former owner was found to have led recent anti-China protests over an ongoing sovereignty dispute between the Philippines and China.

Chinese media recently reported that Loida Nicolas Lewis, a Philippine-born U.S. businesswoman who led worldwide protests against China over the Huangyan Island dispute on May 11, has also been operating a successful supermarket chain based in southeastern seaport city of Xiamen in Fujian Province.

A call for a boycott posted at Sina Weibo, China's most popular tweeting service, was forwarded 79,000 times as of Tuesday. The number of tweets related to "Beatrice" -- the name of the supermarket -- at Sina Weibo has grown to 400,000.

"While earning big money in China, the boss of Beatrice Group was organizing anti-China protests worldwide," a netizen using a screenname "dehuocongrui" wrote. "Everybody should see through her and join the boycott."

Li Feng, deputy general manager at Xiamen Beatrice Chain Stores Co., Ltd., told Xinhua that the company is now fully Chinese-owned and no longer maintains relations with Lewis.

Records from the Xiamen Industry and Commerce Bureau showed that Lewis was chair of the board of Xiamen Beatrice Chain Stores Co., Ltd. from June 2005 to December 2009, when the company was jointly owned by the U.S.-registered TLC Beatrice International Holdings and the Philippine-registered Multi-World Philippines International.

However, the two foreign owners sold Beatrice to a Chinese company, which then sold it to two local Chinese individuals in March 2010, records showed.

The company's current owners -- Shi Qi and Chen Shuiqing -- do not know Lewis, Li said.

However, the owners admitted that the company's turnover has dropped by nearly 10 percent since the controversy erupted.

Beatrice now runs 38 convenience stores and employs 200 workers in Xiamen. A saleswoman at one of the stores said she had received angry phone calls and been asked to quit.

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