Friday, January 19, 2007

Is China Changing?

When I visited Beijing, I counted myself fortunate to be able to enter the Forbidden City. I subsequently learned that it wasn't really 'forbidden' anymore, and lots of people got to see it.

You wonder how open it is? Well, it has a Starbucks. But because of a successful internet campaign launched within China, it may not for much longer:

Managers of China's vast Forbidden City palace are deciding whether to close a Starbucks outlet on its grounds after protests led by a state TV personality, a news report said Thursday.

The Forbidden City, built in 1420, is a 178-acre complex of villas, chapels and gardens that was home to 24 emperors before the end of imperial rule in 1911. It is China's top tourist attraction, drawing some 7 million visitors a year.

"The museum is working with Starbucks to find a solution by this June in response to the protests," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted a palace spokesman, Feng Nai'en, as saying.

A news anchor for China Central Television has led an online campaign to remove Starbucks, which opened in the palace in 2000 at the invitation of its managers, who are under pressure to raise money to maintain the vast complex.

The anchorman, Rui Chenggang, wrote in a CCTV blog that Starbucks' presence "undermined the Forbidden City's solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture..."

A Starbucks spokesman, Roger Sun, said he could not confirm whether the palace and the company were discussing possibly closing the outlet or give other information.

Feng said the decision will be made as part of a palace renovation that already has seen one-third of its shops removed...

So if you're in Beijing, and the Starbucks in the Forbidden City has been closed, it looks like there's one in the Costco not too far away.

Back to the top.

No comments: