A Beijing restaurant’s refusal to serve customers from countries locked in maritime territorial disputes with China has drawn the ire of netizens from at least one of the nations—Vietnam.
The restaurant has put up on its window a racially charged sign in Chinese and English that said, “This shop does not welcome Japanese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and dogs,” according to photos posted on the Facebook social networking site last week.
The owner of the restaurant in Beijing’s Houhai neighborhood, surnamed Wang, told BBC News this week he doesn’t care what others feel about the sign and that he put it up out of “patriotism.”
“Chinese customers support me,” he said.
China is currently embroiled in territorial disputes with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines and Vietnam over islands in the South China Sea. Tensions with Japan over the disputes boiled over into a wave of anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities last fall.
But the restaurant’s action has drawn strong criticism in Vietnam, where tensions over the Spratly and Paracel islands have sparked a series of anti-China protests over the past two years.
Activists have also criticized the Vietnamese government for not standing up enough to what they see as China’s “aggressive” foreign policy in the region.
Dissident lawyer Le Hieu Dang said he thinks Chinese authorities should have taken action against the restaurant owner.
“They should have told the restaurant to take that note off and disciplined them because that insults other people in the world. It is racism. The Beijing government should have strong measures against that,” he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“The government of Vietnam should see [China's] true colors through this fact that they let their people do such things.”
He said the racism evident in the sign was similar to China’s “bullying” of its smaller neighbors in its foreign policy.
“I think people around the world will have strong reactions against this extreme nationalism, which shows the hatred between nations and how big country bullies small countries,” he said.
The photo, posted last week by a Chinese-American user from New York, drew a mixed response from netizens in China.
Some blasted the restaurant’s sign as nationalist racism, and others supported the restaurant owner’s action.
Vietnamese dissident academic Tran Khue said he thinks the Beijing restaurant owner’s actions reflect a Sinocentric attitude that he feels is common in China.
“This mentality dates back so many years,” he said.
He said the sign was reminiscent of China’s colonial era, when British-owned establishments barred Chinese from entering.
“I think they are following what the English did before. The English said, ‘No Chinese and no dogs,’” he said.
George P. Jan, a U.S.-based former professor of Chinese politics, said that the views of one restaurant owner should not be taken to represent all of China.
“This sign does not represent the attitude of most Chinese people. I think it is unwise and emotional. Chinese people are not opposed to all Japanese, Filipinos, or Vietnamese indiscriminately,” he said.
He said nationalism could cause people to get carried away with their views.
“Patriotism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can unite people. But on the other, it will bring disasters to a country,” he added.
Xie Xuanjun, another U.S.-based China scholar, said he thought the restaurant owner had succeeded more in embarrassing Chinese people than in denigrating those of other races.
“The sign itself is a symbol of racism, and ironically the restaurant owner has drawn ridicule on the Chinese ourselves,” he said.
He asked why the restaurant owner had not refused to serve patrons from Russia, which was embroiled in a long-running dispute over islands near China’s northeast until 2008.
“If he refuses to serve people from Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam because of their territorial disputes with China, why doesn’t he refuse to serve Russians? Russia has grabbed more land from China than the other three countries.”
“Is it because Russians are Caucasians?” he said.
Rose Tang, the original poster of the photo, has asked netizens to share the photo widely in the hopes it will spark more discussion about racism.
“Please share it with as many people as possible. I'm hoping pressure from the public and media will teach these guys a lesson,” she said in a comment on Facebook.
Reported by Thanh Quang for RFA’s Vietnamese Service and by Xi Wang for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.