Starbucks in Forbidden City closes

14-07-2007

Starbucks in Forbidden City closes
Coffee shop giant Starbucks has closed its outlet in Beijing's Forbidden City following ongoing protests about the presence of the global brand at China's former imperial palace.

The company closed its shop at the historic site yesterday after it refused a request to operate under the palace's brand name.

However the outlet has been the focus of several protests since it opened in 2000, with critics having repeatedly insisted that it was inappropriate for Starbucks to be operating from the ancient tourist attraction.

Starbucks, which has to some extent become synonymous with globalisation, was forced to remove its exterior sign at the coffee shop two years ago due to sensitivity about the use of cultural symbols and influence of foreign popular culture in China.

But a recent online campaign, claiming that the outlet's presence "trampled" on Chinese culture, still attracted more than 500,000 signatures.

Starbucks, which operates nearly 200 coffee shops in China, said the decision to close the Forbidden City outlet had been "very congenial".

The company stressed that it respected what officials at the palace, which was built in 1420, were trying to do.

Explaining the decision, Starbucks' vice president for Greater China, Eden Woon, said: "There were several choices, one of which was to continue, but it would not carry the Starbucks name any more.

"We decided at the end that it is not our custom worldwide to have stores that have any other name, so therefore we decided the choice would be to leave," he added.



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