TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an interview with Business Weekly, the founder and director of Yi Fang Fruit Tea (一芳), Kei Tzu-kai (柯梓凱), spoke out on Saturday (Nov. 9) about the online furor the company created back in August.
After kowtowing to Beijing over the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests a few months ago, Yi Fang faced a backlash in Taiwan and finally declared that the company would stay out of politics. Kei explained to Business Weekly how Yi Fang went from being "the light of Taiwan to the traitor.”
Kei pointed out that Yi Fang was not the only Taiwanese company to be plagued by sensitive political issues on both sides of the strait. He said that WuPaoChun Bakery (吳寶春) and 85°C Bakery Cafe had also had a hunch "it would come to us sooner or later," the only difference being that for those two companies, the problem only reached "thunderstorm levels", while for Yi Fang it reached a "typhoon level."
Kei was in Japan at the time the scandal broke out. He said that he received a tsunami of messages from pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) trolls within four hours of a photo being posted online of a notice at the Hong Kong Central branch of Yi Fang Fruit Tea that read, “We are closed today to stand with the people of Hong Kong.”
He then permitted a China-based Yi Fang representative to make a post on Weibo to help alleviate the chaos online. However, the Weibo post offended the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong, detonating a chain of boycotts.
Kei recalled that after going through customs on his return to Taiwan, the company had to send two bodyguards to escort him home. He had had no idea that the notice and Weibo statement would cause such an uproar online.
Yi Fang lost about 70 percent of its business in Taiwan in the week after the scandal, according to UDN. It took three months for it to climb back to 60 to 70 percent of what it had been before the storm. Kei said that since the incident, Yi Fang’s losses have exceeded NT$50 million (US$1.6 million).
Kei lamented the continuous negative comments claiming that Yi Fang had published pro-CCP speeches and tried to sell out Taiwan. He said that globally, Yi Fang sells at least 700,000 cups of fruit tea a day, which means that at least that many people see Taiwan’s name daily.
Kei also stressed that although there are only 150 stores in Taiwan and thousands of stores in China, he still spends more than two-thirds of the year in Taiwan. He insisted that if he had no feelings about Taiwan, he would stay overseas for a longer time.
"How much tax do I pay in Taiwan in one year?" he asked rhetorically before adding that Yi Fang uses raw materials "made In Taiwan" and promotes Taiwan's agricultural products to the world. Kei admitted that he had done wrong but added that the whole saga was misunderstood by the Taiwanese patriotic consciousness and that he would take time to clarify himself in the future.