Taiwan coffee chain 85°C kowtows to China after Chinese netizens threaten boycott

A popular Taiwanese cafe chain has found itself between a rock and a hard place after responding to threats of a boycott from Chinese netizens by issuing a groveling apology in which it voiced its firm support for the 1992 Consensus.

The whole drama began yesterday when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen paid a visit to an 85°C Bakery Cafe in Los Angeles. There she grabbed some coffee, chatted with employees, signed a pillow, and received a “special goodie bag.” While this might all appear innocuous enough, that’s not how some Chinese net users viewed it.

In the aftermath of Tsai’s visit, Chinese netizens began angrily condemning the coffee chain, accusing 85C of making a political statement of supporting Taiwanese independence with some even calling for a boycott.

“Get out of mainland China!” shouts one Weibo user with close to 100,000 followers. The company has 44 outlets in the US, 400 in Taiwan, and more than 500 on the Chinese mainland.

Meanwhile, other netizens spent their time dredging up old scandals, like when a battery was found in a cup of bubble tea at an 85°C cafe in Shanghai last month…

And still others tried to create new scandals with one Weibo user posting this photo with the caption: “Free flies to go with your bread.”

In response to the online outrage, 85C published an apology on its official Weibo page early this morning. In the statement, the company voiced its support for the Chinese government, as well as the “1992 Consensus,” an understanding of sorts in which Taiwan and China agreed that there was only “one China.”

The company went on to say that it opposes any behavior or remarks that “divide the feelings of compatriots on both sides of the strait,” vowing to “uphold the cross-strait family.” The statement even refers to Tsai in Chinese state media parlance, not as Taiwan’s “president” but as the “leader of the Taiwan authority.”

On Weibo, 85°C’s statement has been shared more than 5,000 times and has over 13,000 comments, many of which simply continue to accuse the company of pro-independence sympathies and vow to never visit one of its outlets ever again.

Meanwhile, the chain has been similarly bombarded on its Facebook page, not only by Chinese nationalists, but also by netizens from Taiwan saying that the brand has betrayed Taiwan by kowtowing so obsequiously to China.

Tsai stopped by Los Angeles while on her way to visit a few of Taiwan’s dwindling number of allies in Latin America. Each time that Tsai transits through the US, Beijing invariably raises a fuss, but this time around China was especially outraged because Tsai found time between flights to make a public speech — the first by a Taiwanese leader on US soil in 15 years.

“In going abroad, the whole world can see Taiwan; they can see our country as well as our support for democracy and freedom,” Tsai said. “We only need to be firm so that no one can obliterate Taiwan’s existence.”

Beijing has ramped up its efforts against Taiwan this year, pressuring apologies and political changes out of a slew of international companies including Marriott, Gap, and every major international airline. Earlier this month, Taiwanese actress Vivian Sung was even forced to apologize for an old interview in which she called Taiwan her favorite “country.”

“I am Chinese… Taiwan is my homeland. China is my motherland,” the actress wrote. “I am proud to be Chinese. I love my homeland and I love my motherland. The two sides of the strait are always a family.”