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More drink shops caught up in HK protests

‘HANG IN THERE’:CoCo said a message in support of protesters was written by an employee acting on their own volition and did not represent the company

By William Hetherington  /  Staff writer

Pedestrians pass by a Taipei outlet of the Taiwanese beverage chain CoCo Tea on April 24, 2015.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Taiwanese beverage chain CoCo Tea has become the latest Taiwanese business to become embroiled in the Hong Kong protests, after it on Friday denied claims that it supported the protesters.

A photograph of a receipt from the company’s outlet in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai District has been circulating on WeChat on which a staff member had written: “Hang in there, Hong Kongers” (香港人加油).

The company issued a statement on WeChat saying that it “is resolute in its determination to obey [China’s] laws and regulations. Of course, included in that is the Hong Kong area’s [legal status as] an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China.”

CoCo said the message was written by an employee acting on their own volition and did not represent the company’s views.

It would temporarily close the outlet to implement disciplinary actions and to “reduce harmful influence,” the company said.

Taiwan Gong Cha issued a statement in support of China’s “one country, two systems” formula.

The statement issued on WeChat said that Hong Kong was an “inseparable part of China.”

The statement was followed by a WeChat post from the company’s Chinese distributor, SYNG Tea, that it “has always persisted in upholding the ‘one China principle’ in following national policy.”

A Facebook user wrote that Taiwanese beverage chain Da Yung’s Tea has since April identified itself as “originating in Taiwan, China,” on its WeChat profile page.

“What brands are left for us to drink?” another user wrote.

Beverage company Milkshop Tea also referred to itself as a company from “Taiwan, China,” until it deleted all references to Taiwan on its WeChat page on Friday, apparently in response to protests from Taiwanese Internet users.

Da Yung franchise department deputy director Chiu Hsiao-hsun (邱曉焄) yesterday said that the reference to “Taiwan, China” on the firm’s WeChat profile was written by a staff member at its Chinese distributor in accordance with local practice.

The company’s main office in Taiwan had not paid any attention to the wording, she said.

Milkshop responded to criticism on Facebook, saying that as content on WeChat is censored, if it writes “Taiwan” it must add “China.”

One Internet user commented: “If you open a shop in the US, do you need to write ‘Taiwan, US’? This is odd logic.”

Social Democratic Party Taipei City Councilor Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) said she used to buy beverages from Da Yung’s and Milkshop, but would boycott the companies for their references to “Taiwan, China.”

“I can live without shaken beverages, but not without principles,” she said.

Attorney Lu Chiu-yuan (呂秋遠) said it is important to protest the companies’ wording, even though it might seem trivial.

Failing to do so would make people become accustomed to saying “Taiwan, China,” and would cause them to give up protesting China’s treatment of Taiwan, he said, adding that this would play into China’s “united front” strategy.

“If Taiwanese tea shops want to support ‘one country, two systems,’ then we will drink water,” he said.

Additional reporting by Chien Hui-ju and Yan Hung-chun

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