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Online retailer denounced by Chinese authorities, public over sale of controversial T-shirt

(People's Daily Online)    15:17, March 13, 2017
Online retailer denounced by Chinese authorities, public over sale of controversial T-shirt

The Chinese embassy in Germany has once again urged a German retailer to apologize after the latter refused to stop selling T-shirts featuring offensive slogans.

The embassy released a statement on March 11 claiming that the response from the company so far is unacceptable, as it "uses openness and diversity to justify ... the wrongdoing of insulting others."

The statement came after Spreadshirt, a platform for customized clothing and accessories, issued its own statement on March 10. The company's CEO, Philip Rooke, apologized to "anyone who takes any offense from the two designs in question," but nevertheless decided to keep the controversial T-shirts on the platform.

"We do not judge or censor designs based on their phrasing, social or political leanings. This open platform principle means that, in a few cases, some people may find a design controversial, while others do not." The statement was criticized by the Chinese embassy, which complained that the company was defending its discrimination rather than apologizing.

The two shirts in question--which apparently reference the consumption of shark fins and dog meat in some regions of China--respectively read "Save a Dog - Eat a Chinese" and "Save a Shark - Eat a Chinese."

The embassy called for better supervision by relevant German authorities on March 9. Meanwhile, a boycott has already been organized on Chinese social media. Under the hashtag "GermanCompanyInsultsChina," which had garnered over half a million page views as of press time, netizens have condemned the company's decision, saying that such "narrow-minded and arrogant bias against the Chinese is unacceptable."

"Not everyone in China eats dogs and shark fins. Such a ridiculous generalization has hurt Chinese people's feelings. Do we print T-shirts calling for Chinese to eat Germans, because they eat hogs and make them into sausages?" one netizen wrote.

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies under the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that ordinary Germans have a very vague understanding of China. Many believe China is a backwards country that should accept Western culture and values; this bias is manifested in some citizens' conservatism and stubbornness, Cui said.

"The company's decision is baleful and should not be tolerated. Germany's criminal law clearly stipulates that discrimination and insulting foreigners are crimes. Chinese organizations should press charges against the company," a Germany-based lawyer told the Global Times. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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