Mercedes sorry for Dalai Lama quote - Taipei Times
Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Mercedes sorry for Dalai Lama quote

‘A FRESH PERSPECTIVE’:The post on Instagram quoting the Tibetan spiritual leader immediately drew criticism from Chinese Internet users and state-run media outlets

AFP, BEIJING

German automaker Mercedes-Benz has apologized for “hurting the feelings” of the Chinese people after its Instagram account quoted Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist by Beijing.

The apology marks the latest backpedaling by a foreign company for offending Chinese consumers with advertising or information that clashes with Beijing’s official position.

Mercedes-Benz’s seemingly benign post to its official Instagram account showed a car on a beach before rolling white-capped waves.

“Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open,” the ad copy ran, citing the Dalai Lama.

“Start your week with a fresh perspective on life from the Dalai Lama,” the automaker wrote in the tagline.

The post immediately drew criticism from Chinese Internet users for quoting the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whom Beijing accuses of being a “wolf in monk’s robes” seeking Tibetan independence through “spiritual terrorism.”

The Dalai Lama has called for granting Tibetans greater autonomy within China, but not independence.

While Instagram is blocked in China and inaccessible to most Chinese, and the Instagram post was penned in English, Mercedes-Benz quickly deleted the photograph after the outcry and issued an apology on China’s Sina Weibo social media platform.

“Even though we deleted the related information as soon as possible, we know this has hurt the feelings of people of this country,” Mercedes-Benz said in its statement.

The post “published extremely incorrect information, for this we are sincerely sorry,” the company wrote.

“We have immediately taken real action to deepen our understanding of Chinese culture and values, including among our colleagues abroad, and in this way regulate our behavior,” it wrote.

The online edition of the People’s Daily did not let up, running an editorial attacking Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday.

“Mercedes-Benz, you’ve made yourself an enemy of the Chinese people,” the headline of the newspaper’s editorial read.

“Some foreign companies are dredging up gold in China’s market at the same time as they are harming the Chinese people, what do they want to do?” it said.

Offending the sensitivities of Beijing has proven a problem for a number of foreign companies tapping the lucrative Chinese market.

Earlier this year, a spate of brands came under government criticism for online material that listed Chinese regions such as Tibet and Hong Kong as separate nations.

Marriott hotels even had its Chinese Web site and app blocked for a week by the authorities, while Spanish clothing giant Zara and Delta Air Lines were also called out.

Nor is this the first Dalai Lama Instagram post to provoke a backlash in China.

Last summer, British rock band Placebo was scheduled to perform at the Summer Sonic Festival in Shanghai — until they posted a photograph of the Dalai Lama on Instagram.

The photograph of the Dalai Lama resulted “in a lifetime ban by the Ministry of Culture in China,” the band said in another post acknowledging they would be unable to perform.

“We apologize to all the fans who were hoping to see Placebo perform,” the band wrote.

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