TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Following the recent controversy over political statements from the Yi Fang tea company regarding the ongoing Hong Kong protests, another Taiwanese tea chain is causing a stir on Chinese social media. This time it is the CoCo (都可茶飲) bubble tea company.
Many Chinese netizens on the popular Weibo messaging app are outraged at a seemingly innocuous message printed on receipts at a single Hong Kong location of the tea franchise. The words that have outraged so many are “Hong Kongers, jia you!” (香港人加油!) -- a simple message of support telling Hong Kong residents to “add oil.”
The franchise is located in the city's Wan Chai District, and the receipt photo dated June 16 began circulating on Weibo on Aug. 6. Similar to the recent Yi Fang controversy, the photo has triggered thousands of Chinese consumers who have vowed never to drink CoCo products again.
Chinese netizens in support of Beijing’s controversial “one country, two systems” policy for the city have interpreted the message on the receipt as a sign of support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and the protests which have wracked the city for over two months.
Message of support for Hong Kongers on receipt for HKD$26 (Photo from Weibo)
Within days of the photo surfacing, the CoCo corporate office released an official statement on Aug. 9 on Weibo explaining that a single person was responsible for the message on the receipt and that business at the Wan Chai location has been suspended. Similar to the Yi Fang controversy, the CoCo tea company quickly sought to mitigate damage by voicing their support for the rule of law and declaring “Hong Kong is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China.”
The website What’s on Weibo reported that the hashtag #CoCo statement (#coco声明) was the most searched hashtag on the Weibo platform on Friday (Aug. 9) with over 300 million views. Such huge public interest generated by a photo of a milk tea receipt is a surprising indication of how sensitive Chinese internet users are about the ongoing strife in Hong Kong.
Unlike the statement from the Yi Fang company, CoCo avoided any mention of the “one country, two systems” in their statement, likely in order to avoid further controversy among Taiwanese customers. However, the statement from CoCo did also seek to dispel rumors generated on Weibo that the company website referred to Taiwan as an independent country, which is an indication that the company still prioritizes its business interests in China over support for Taiwan's sovereignty.